This Irate Cookbook Author Represents A Swelling Threat To Facebook's $US6 Billion Ad Business

Stephanie Stiavetti is a freelance food writer.

She is the author of a cookbook called “Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese,” published by Little, Brown, and Company.

She is at the vanguard of a swelling movement against Facebook.

Stiavetti knows that as an author and writer, she is a one-woman brand — and that she needs to market her brand as best she can on the Internet.

So she’s got active profiles everywhere: Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google Plus.

One place online where Stiavetti has decided to be less active about promoting herself is Facebook.

That’s pretty surprising, for two reasons:

  • Facebook is by far the world’s biggest social network, with almost a billion people using it every single day.
  • Stiavetti is popular on Facebook. She has 8,000 fans.

So why is she leaving?
Because, she says, only about .01% of those 8,000 fans see the status updates, recipes, and photos she puts on Facebook.

Stiavetti explained her decision earlier this month in a post on her personal blog titled, “The Woes Of Facebook.”
She writes:

I have 8,000 followers. Over the past few months my engagement has slowed to less than a trickle — a tiny fraction of what it was at the beginning of the year. Now, when I post to my Facebook page for The Culinary Life, only 100 people see those posts (on average). That is about .01% of my followers. Facebook then tries to charge me $US20 so that you can see my content. Given that I don’t make any money from the stories and photos I post — please note there are not any ads on my site — paying hundreds of dollars a month to access you, the fans who willingly liked my page, is just not possible.

To make matter worse, Facebook has been charging page owners to run ads, which is in essence buying followers. That’s not a problem in and of itself, but when they charge to grow a page’s following and then remove access to those very same followers after they’ve accepted money for them, well, I find that incredibly unethical…

…I’m very sad that Facebook has decided to exclude the blogging community from accessing our loyal friends and fans, you who we love so dearly and are the reason we put so much work into creating recipes, photographing dishes, and publishing post after post. Really, you are the reason we work so hard. It’s terrible that Facebook has decided to hide our work from your eyes after you’ve already expressed interest in seeing it. We are not large brands selling products; the vast majority of food bloggers are mums, dads, husbands, wives, hobbyists, students, writers — everyday folks who just want to invite you into our kitchens.

Stiavetti isn’t alone in her outrage at Facebook.

At the beginning of December, Facebook changed the algorithm it uses to select which “stories” appear in users News Feeds — that center column of photos, updates, videos and ads you see when you go to or open a Facebook app.

Facebook said it was changing the algorithm so that it would highlight higher quality news stories and show fewer silly photos.

But the immediate effect of the change was to drastically reduce the reach of the kinds of Facebook brand pages maintained by people like Stiavetti, e-commerce companies, and national brands.

Spokespeople for several companies told us that the “reach” of their Facebook posts declined by as much 80% after the changes.

Like Stiavetti, the people running those pages assumed Facebook actually changed its algorithm not to have the News Feed show higher quality news stories, but to force Facebook page operators to buy ads from Facebook if they wanted reach.

In an email to Business Insider, a Facebook spokesperson said that was not the motivation behind the News Feed change. He said the most likely reason “organic” posts from Facebook pages weren’t getting seen was that, during the holiday season, retailers are buying lots of ads for the News Feed, and those are crowding out the non-paid content.

The problem for Facebook is that appearances are reality — and to Facebook page managers, small like Stiavetti or big like several national retailers we spoke to, it appears that Facebook is shaking them down for bigger ad spends. They feel like suckers in a bait-and-switch scheme.

That “reality” has them angry.

Jim Tobin, who runs a social media marketing agency called Ignite, says clients like his are the reason Facebook has annual revenues of $US6 billion.

He says that Facebook used to be a great place for a brand because “you could you could have a presence for free and then pay to boost it.”

Now that content posted to Facebook will only seen by .01% to 2.5% of its fans, that free “presence” is basically gone.

Tobin says his clients may soon leave Facebook and take their $US6 billion with them.

“We as brands have the ability to take our money elsewhere. It’s not like there’s a lack of social networks for us to take our business.”

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