Facebook is Now a Rented Land and You Can Be Thrown Out Anytime

Facebook, a couple of weeks back, made a simple announcement – unpaid, overly promotional posts will be zapped from the user’s news feed.  

 Which means not all posts by a brand will be affected. It’s the “buy it now” posts without a single iota of creativity, posts that push people to enter irrelevant promotions, and posts that reuse the exact same content from ads – are under the fire.  

Is promotional content banned on Facebook?

No. Only organic but overly promotional content is. The message is clear to the advertisers – buy ads to promote your product/service. Don’t clutter the user’s news feed with blatant promotional messages. Rebecca Lieb of the Altimeter Group has aptly judged the situation when she says “It’s a clear message to brands: If you want to sound like an advertiser, buy an ad.” 

Does it mean the Facebook timeline would be filled with more ads?

No. As confirmed by the social media giant, “this change will not increase the number of ads people see in their News Feeds”.  

Is Facebook becoming greedier? 

No. In Facebook’s words – “Our goal with News Feed has always been to show people the things they want to see. That’s why we often look to people on Facebook to tell us how we can improve. As part of an ongoing survey we asked hundreds of thousands of people how they feel about the content in their News Feeds. People told us they wanted to see more stories from friends and Pages they care about, and less promotional content.” If you go by what Facebook has to say – it’s all about users and showing them relevant and quality content that they want to see on their news feed.  In August Facebook announced that they were going to ban Like Gating from November 5. This means that business pages can no long use apps or social plugins to make people Like the pages. 

Facebook said, “You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page.” As the reason, the social network stated, “We want people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives. We believe this update will benefit people and advertisers alike.”

 Now one can easily enter a contest or unlock an offer without liking the page.  Like gating was a tactic used by pages to increase their Like count rapidly. However with time, this fan-building method has fallen from its position as marketers started to identify the importance of engagement.  But Forrester has something more to add to this story –  Forrester is advising marketers to abandon Facebook because it’s working against them. They also said if marketers want to build “social relationship” with their customers, they must stop using Facebook.

Here’s what they said in their report  “Social Relationship Strategies That Work”With few people see companies’ social posts, and even fewer engage with those posts, what’s the result? Brands don’t actually have social relationships with their customers. It’s time for marketers to start building social relationship strategies around sites that can deliver value.

Ogilvy, back in February, reported that Facebook organic page posts were expected to reach only 2% of the entire fan-base. And a leaked presentation by Facebook confirmed that there was a clear strategy behind it. According to the tape, Facebook “expected organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time.” 

What are marketers and industry leaders saying followed by the latest announcement? 

Facebook has been experimenting with its news feed algorithm for some time now but this would be the biggest shift that will change your timeline experience entirely. But how marketers will adapt to the change, is something to watch.

Here are some reactions that we saw so far: Nate Elliott from Forrester added, “Facebook’s move to continue to chop down the organic reach of brands’ Facebook posts and the fact that marketers continue to be dissatisfied with the performance of their Facebook Pages point to the fact that brands don’t actually have social relationships with their customers.” While general Facebook users are happy that they will get more relevant stories, as promised by Facebook, some marketers seem really mad at the social media giant. Here is an excerpt of a Reddit conversation: 

 Debra Aho Williamson from eMarketer perfectly put it in words, “Facebook is saying, ‘We’re in charge. And you’re renting from us.”  360i VP-Social Matthew Wurs was not shocked at all, as he said, “The reaction was almost blank. There was no surprise, no disappointment, no panic.”  Peter Fasano, the senior VP at Social@Ogilvy has a humorous take on this. He said, “Basically they’re moving bad actors out of the mix. Red Bull is still going to thrive, and Viacom is still going to thrive. Striving for shareable content is really the goal, not clickthroughs to how many cars you can sell.” Well, it seems that it’s not a big deal for big-shot marketers who work with big brands with big budgets.

Only small and medium sized companies seem to be panicking.  Mallin, the North America Head of Social Noah commented, “I think marketers are just accepting the fact that Facebook is a place where you pay to play. The whole story of building a community is not operative anymore.” 

The message is clear: “For building a brand story, you really have to do it with a budget.” For brands – it’s time that they start treating Facebook news feed like a rented land, which is limited and pricey. The competition for reaching Facebook news feed will now be greater.

With this update, Facebook accomplishes another threshold to improve their user experience as well as increase their ad revenue.  This also means if you want your content to appear on 1.35 billion-community news feed, your challenges are now bigger than ever. If Google is the global leader for search market, Facebook can easily be crowned as the king of social ads. With this update, Facebook now seems to be establishing it loud and clear. Love it or hate it, you cannot ignore it. 

What would be Facebook’s next step to make it more user-friendly and increase its ad revenue? Only time will tell. Till then, keep shelling out more money on ads and producing relevant, engaging and quality content.  Rent it to enjoy the attention, else be ready to be kicked out anytime! 


Blog News