November 1, 2012

Marketer’s Wake-Up Call: Facebook Is Protecting Users From You

In another instance of the bevy of posts from marketers lambasting Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm, this one takes the fucking cake. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of unfounded entitlement, narcissistic scapegoating combined with a gross lack of knowledge of the underlying mechanisms behind the platform. I seriously didn’t know whether to laugh my ass off or throw my fucking laptop against the wall.

Essentially, marketing consultants are throwing a fit claiming that Facebook is limiting the reach of their client’s business pages for the sake of extorting sweet advertising cash from their pocketbooks. Cries that Facebook has reneged on their implicit assumption when these businesses acquired their “likes” that their visibility would be absolute. Even more asinine is citing that by doing so, Facebook is negatively affecting user experience in this regard to bow to the almighty buck.

They’ve always restricted the ability of businesses to reach customers directly via Facebook. And they are using Edgerank to reduce visibility of business posts while simultaneously telling page owners they can pay for greater visibility. Their efforts are designed to push businesses to pay for advertising on the platform.

All these complaints are rooted around the incorrect assumption that people actually want to see your business pages’ posts. Hate to break it to you, but they don’t. Get it through your fucking head already. Sure, maybe 15% of your acquired “likes” are sincerely interested in your business’ daily updates, photos and self-serving questions, but most aren’t.

Instead, Facebook has chosen to focus on features that benefit advertisers over features that truly benefit users. It’s chosen to focus on fairly traditional advertising, which users hate and businesses find largely ineffective in the social space. Facebook has turned its back on the businesses that have invested in pages and left them to vie for visibility with the same old standby of posting pictures and comments.

Regardless of the contrary opinions from marketers, limiting page visibility in news feeds is actually positive for user experience. Facebook is protecting them from you. And there’s no one else to blame for this besides you. In a tragedy of the commons, marketers as a whole have harvested the land dry of low-hanging fruit as if the free platform was yours for the taking. It wasn’t and it never was.

I’ll even give most small businesses a pass here. Most don’t know any better. Many of them barely maintain their Facebook presence as it is – of course, without the push of a social media consultant or marketing agency of some type. That’s why these two paragraphs from that blog post just sent me up a fucking wall…

Zuckerberg and his gang spent so much effort getting businesses to build Facebook pages, amass followers, and create tabs and apps for them. They have managed to make us all believe that a Facebook page is practically a requirement for any business, and that having a large number of followers is the badge of a “real” company.

Facebook sold us on “engagement” but failed to provide businesses with tools and methods to truly engage consumers. While Facebook touts comments and likes—and its Timeline has delivered increases in those—what ultimately counts is whether people go to their own website or eventually make a purchase. Comments and likes don’t mean more money.

Are you shitting me? Did I miss some grandiose conference tour or massive outreach campaign by Facebook HQ soliciting small business owners onto their platform as a must-have requirement for 21st century success? I surely never got those e-mails. Neither have my clients, prospective clients and the hundreds of other small business owners I’ve ever come across the past few years.

They have been getting that message, but not from Facebook itself. Who from? Fucking marketers. The tail here is being pinned on the wrong donkey. It’s not the Zuckster, it’s the hucksters.

Now that Facebook is finally exposing the limits of having an effective presence (for free) on their platform, negating a ton of useless time and energy that marketers have spent chasing the golden goose and putting them in a position to actually having to justify the results of that work to their clients beyond “like” counts and photo shares, of course they’ll cry foul. When you put all your eggs in one rotten basket, you deserve to get a moldy omelette.

A Facebook page isn’t necessarily a “must-have” for a small business and definitely not more important than a well-designed, content-driven, conversion-friendly website easily found via search.

So instead of lashing out, admit you were wrong. Isn’t that what you’d advise to a business when dealing with crisis management – to immediately say you’re sorry? Apparently we should all do what you say, not do what you do.