A followup (and conclusion?) to the whole Facebook Promoted Posts saga

Since I last posted about Facebook and Promoted Posts, there’s been some very interesting discussions going on, not to mention some interesting articles and at least one notable development on Facebook’s side.

The first post that caught my eye was Erin Griffith’s piece on Pando: “Enough with the entitled whining — Facebook isn’t running an advertising charity“. This took quite a similar stance to my own piece, with a few choice quotes – this being one:

Facebook has do to this because it needs to make money and, more importantly, because it can only clog newsfeeds with a limited number of brand messages. Facebook has three constituencies right now. Users, shareholders, and advertisers. They exist in a sort of symbiotic recycle-reuse-reduce triangle: Facebook needs users to make advertisers happy, it needs advertisers (aka revenue) to make shareholders happy, and it needs shareholders in order to stay in business continue making the people Zuckerberg cares most about — the users — happy.

So Facebook must tread very delicately with each constituent. It can’t go overboard on ads to the point where it turns off users, and they move on to another social network. That’s what Myspace did, and look how well that worked out. And that is the specific reason Zuckerberg provided when asked about the latest Edgerank tweak: The feed’s quality is crucial in order to not turn off users, he said on Facebook’s second quarter earnings call.

Something that also came out of the whole discussion around Richard Metzger’s original post on this subject and my own response to that was that for content creators – ie people running websites relying on maybe 10+ posts per day – the challenge differed greatly to the likes of bands, where maybe one post per day is made at best. I stand by my point in my last article about the strategy for content creators being wrong, but where this got interested was when Sean Adams of Drowned In Sound started a discussion around the whole topic on his Facebook page. Now, if I were to pull every interesting comment on this thread I’d be reposting the entire thing, so all I can do is urge you to head over there and read it in full. A few of my peers contribute, and overall I’d say it was one of the most interesting discussions I’ve seen around this whole topic.

Yesterday Sean posted a followup where in my opinion he has nailed it. His epiphany is a must-read because he manages to summarise in three paragraphs exactly how people should be viewing Facebook. Here’s his first point (of three):

Facebook is not a place to casually dump your links and hope people click on them. This used to be the case, but not any more. They want you to be YOU, either as an individual or a brand, and to start a conversation or to share things of ‘value’ to your followers/page-likers. Enhance the instant appeal of your ‘content’, even if that means using a sensationalist pull quote or googling for a LOLcat. If it is something truly great, then it will actually seep out there, but you need to give it a helping hand. Imagery really helps!

Something I love here is that Sean is actually dedicating time to discussing this with people with experience in this area with a view to trialling things and finding solutions. I guess this is why the “Entitled Whining” post above resonated with me so much, because in general all I have seen is people complaining about what is being taken away with very few people working to adapt their strategy to survive. In fact in some respects it reminds me of the music industry’s reactive response to Napster all those years ago; very much a “we must kill this and protect the existing model” rather than “we must be proactive and explore new models”.

I still maintain that it is Facebook’s playground and we’re just playing in it. Your strategies must be under constant review, and you have to be clear on what you are genuinely getting from Facebook as a platform. As Sean states in his “epiphany” post:

“it’s about discourse, and thinking about ways to make people aware that we have content, without being explicit about it (in fact, it turns out anything with a link has to be doubly awesome to get attention)”

Facebook has not ignored the general kerfuffle around this topic either, and late last week started rolling out a new feature whereby you can choose to have notifications about new posts from Pages. All you have to do is hover over the “Like” button on the page, and when the popup menu appears, just check the “Get notifications” option, as Sean demonstrated on the Drowned In Sound page below:

Personally I think that’s a decent compromise, though if I have one concern its that Pages will all start calling for fans to do this in order to receive every post. That’s something of a cheat, purely because the whole idea of Edgerank is to reward the most engaging Pages for being interesting by showing their content to more people. The notifications system, whilst useful, does potentially open the door for Pages to get lazy, safe in the knowledge that they have pushed fans to be notified of every post. As ever though, I think a natural social order will win out here; dull pages, when peppering your News Feed with posts, will simply get Unliked if they fail to keep you interested and become more of a pest.

So, hopefully now the dust is settling on this whole Promoted Posts drama. For me the whole subject has been a fascinating one to discuss with people and I’ve learned a few things along the way too. Do take a read of those discussions above though, especially if you are an artist, someone working with artists, or indeed anyone running a Facebook Page, irrespective of your business area. I think all the points made stand whatever your Page represents, and there’s much to be learned there.

UPDATE: No sooner had I finished this article than this post turned up in my Reader, courtesy of TechCrunch: “Killing Rumors With Facts: No, Facebook Didn’t Decrease Page Feed Reach To Sell More Promoted Posts”. In essence this article makes a similar point to one Sean makes, namely that a Page is better off posting one decent post per day than hammering out 10-15 posts at regular intervals. Why? Because those “news feed” Pages were considered spammy, posting more messages than could possibly be seen in any users News Feed.

Let’s leave the last word to Techcrunch then, because I think this nails it perfectly:

What should Pages do now that they know what happened? Focus on publishing high-quality content. Don’t post too often and don’t cram your marketing down people’s throats. Be entertaining and informative. Then follow your analytics closely, consider hiring experts that can help, and refine your strategy. If your Page’s reach decreased, I’m sorry. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad Page, business, or admin. You just need to work on finding relevant content to post and delivering it with a natural non-spammy tone.

Amen to that.

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