A conspiracy theory has grown around the way Facebook “really” makes money.
Exhibit A: Eat24, which dramatically deleted its Facebook page this week after saying “You lied to us,” in a breakup letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Even Rainn Wilson from “The Office” is PO-ed. A small cult has grown up around this YouTube video that “explains” how “Facebook Fraud” works. Two million people have watched it.
This chart (below) tells you all you need to know about why advertisers on Facebook think that the social network’s recent changes to its news feed are destroying their ability to reach their customers on Facebook. Over time, Facebook has turned down the “organic” reach of any given post by an advertiser.
After encouraging businesses to advertise on Facebook and gather vast armies of fans, Facebook is now literally preventing those businesses from reaching the fans they paid for. The only way to reach most of your fans now is to pay to promote posts on Facebook.
No matter how big an advertiser is, and how many fans they have, an average post will only actually be seen by 6.5% of fans:
This next chart, from [email protected] — one of Facebook’s larger advertisers — is even more brutal. It shows that some brands can now only reach 2% of their users:
So, Facebook is deliberately sabotaging its own best customers, right? It’s screwing them for money: The only way for an advertiser to reach anyone on Facebook is to pay. Facebook is now “Adbook” — and it charges everyone for something it used to give for free.
Here is what is really going on, as helpfully explained by a long article on Techcrunch.
The background is that Facebook is so big, and you have so many friends, that the news feed has become too crowded and chaotic to be interesting or useful to anyone:
- Likes on Facebook increase at a rate of 50% per year.
- An average user has 1,500 posts coming into their news feed every day.
- Some users with lots of friends have 15,000 posts to see each day.
- But people only have time to read a few dozen posts.
It’s simple maths: The more crowded Facebook becomes, the smaller the percentage of everything you’re going to see there.
So Facebook’s news feed makes some choices for you. It uses 100,000 variables to arrange your feed in such a way that the stuff you’re actually likely to be interested in is at the top, and the spam and garbage is way, way down where you’re not likely to see it unless you;re really bored and scroll a lot. Here are the main variables per Techcrunch’s interview with Facebook News Feed Director of Product Management Will Cathcart:
- How popular (Liked, commented on, shared, clicked) are the post creator’s past posts with everyone
- How popular is this post with everyone who has already seen it
- How popular have the post creator’s past posts been with the viewer
- Does the type of post (status update, photo, video, link) match what types have been popular with the viewer in the past
- How recently was the post published
Those last few points are the ones that Eat24, Rainn Wilson and Derek Muller — who made the “Facebook Fraud” videos — never mention. Facebook is biased in favour of compelling content that people like, comment on and otherwise engage with.
Conversely, it is designed to punish you for being boring.
And advertisers are, frequently, boring.
I recently talked to the social media manager for a major online wireless service brand. One of the really big ones. This person told me that day after day, her team would create posts for the company’s Facebook page. The problem is, none of them went anywhere. No one liked them. People may “like” their wireless provider, but they don’t want a real relationship with it. Worse, chief marketing officers of companies with Facebook ad budgets tend to be terrible at creating or approving wildly compelling content. By definition, their stuff has to be “on brand” or “on-message.” And as important as that message about financing options for new wireless service is, who, really, is going to like that on Facebook?
So this wireless company ended up paying to promote every post it wrote.
My impression, from this source, was that the company was basically determined not to learn what really goes viral on Facebook.
Eat24 is an example of this writ large: Its Facebook page really was dedicated to random nonsense like “sushi porn.” Guess what? People don’t want to “like” that in a forum that their family uses to keep in touch. ironically, it was only when Eat24 wrote something genuinely interesting and useful about Facebook — its breakup rant, describing how frustrating it is to be a Facebook advertiser — that it got the kind of viral traction it needed.
Bottom line: If Facebook has reduced your reach and is now forcing you to pay for posts, it’s because you are terrible at Facebook. You deserve it. Facebook is punishing you for being boring. It’s deliberate, and you should take it personally — and change your ways.