How Facebook Shot Itself in the Foot

facebook_newsfeedFacebook’s changes to the News Feed have been billed as an effort to improve their user’s experience and “show the right content to the right people at the right time”. On the surface, it makes sense: Facebook’s first responsibility is to their users, without whom, they would have no site and certainly would not have a valuation that exceeds $100B. These users deserve to see the best content possible.

But Facebook is just like any other business, it needs to make money. If they REALLY wanted to improve their user’s experience, couldn’t they start by eliminating ads and sponsored posts altogether? After all, if I want to see a brand’s content, I’ll either Like their page, or I’ll get it organically from a friend’s share or comment.

Facebook’s recent changes aren’t about their users at all, they’re about their investors. They’re about squeezing as much money as possible from every single business that uses their service. It’s specifically harmful to small business owners; major corporations are already spending hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars in advertising and will continue to do so. In a recent document released by Facebook entitled Generating business results , the benefits of having fans are (in order):

1. Improve advertising effectiveness
2. Lower cost for paid distribution
3. Benefit from organic distribution

Facebook even goes so far as to  begin the third bullet point with the disclaimer, “Although organic distribution is not guaranteed…”. Translation: the way to get fans is by paying for advertisements and the two most important benefits of these fans is not free dissemination of content, but rather, just to help you continue advertising.

This organic reach thing is really becoming a problem. Instead of the 14-20% reach that company pages were used to seeing, most business are seeing as little as 1-4%.

Facebook’s response? “You’ll have to spend money if you want to get your content seen.”

Everyone else’s response? “No we won’t, we’ll just take our content elsewhere.”

You see, Facebook’s fatal flaw is assuming that they’ve become too big to fail and that whatever they demand of brands, they will get becauseGoogle-Plus-Logo they have the power of one billion users. What they fail to realize is that for years, they’ve been getting a ton of help from the very same small businesses that they’re now exploiting. Brands stopped driving customers to their websites and instead started inviting them to their Facebook pages. More users making more frequent visits means more advertising revenue for Facebook. But Facebook has taken that for granted and is now making page owners pay to get their content seen by more than 4% of the fans they’ve worked so hard to accumulate.

Something has to give. Small businesses and social media managers alike are immediately feeling the effects of Facebook’s suffocating new algorithm. If the social media world has taught us anything, it’s that networks come and go and no one is exempt. I have to believe that all it will take is an army of small business owners changing their ads from “Visit us on Facebook” to “Visit Us on Google+” for Facebook to see a very real shift in its usership and its advertising dollars. As this Forbes.com article points out, Google+ is just WAITING to take their shot.

Have you seen a substantial difference in your engagement and reach since these changes take place? What adjustments have you made to try to handle it?

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