Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t have a throttling problem.
Facebook is making more changes to the newsfeed that look to cripple the organic reach of brands (more on that here: New York Times – Facebook Will Curtail Unpaid Ads by Brands). The main message that they’re sending to brands is this: if your posts even have a hint of shilling you’re going to pay for it. Last Friday, the company began to further distance the content marketing from the advertising. Starting in January, the company would prefer if brands just took ads, and this includes pieces of content asking users to watch a particular show or download an app (more on that here: DigiDay – Facebook steps up its war on like-bait).
Is Facebook getting greedier or is it something else?
The general frustration of marketers is understandable (and, I’m not just writing this because I’m a marketer). Brands have spent a significant amount of time and money on Facebook acquiring fans and connecting with them. Some do this exceptionally well, while others have seen social media as a free ride to get the word out. Regardless, brands have acquired these likes and fans, and Facebook now makes it increasingly more difficult for the brands to get anything through to these people who have willingly agreed to connect (and who can willingly unlike these brands at any point). On the other hand, Facebook needs to keep its billion-plus audience engaged. So, if enough of the feed gets filled with brand messages in lieu of what our friends are up to, they risk having people become disengaged and disenfranchised with Facebook. Earlier this year, Facebook began the process of throttling the amount of content from brands to the newsfeed. It wasn’t subtle. Many brands had such few pieces of content getting through, that they changed their integrated marketing mix by redefining Facebook as a paid media (more on that here: Organic Reach on Facebook: Your Questions Answered). Facebook didn’t just push this throttling issue further this week. Last week, the massive online social network also told brands and agencies that they could no longer run promotions that forced users to like a brand to participate (see that DigiDay piece above).
What is Facebook really doing?
The capitalist in us all, will see these aggressive moves as Facebook’s run to build a (bigger) war chest of money. Over the years, Facebook encouraged brands to connect with fans and share, but once those relationships were established, Facebook changed the rules and made it pay-to-play. the realist is us should see this as Facebook’s desire to not pollute the user experience and – because they can – dictate a quality over quantity model to brands. For this, we should all be grateful. The truth of why Facebook has done this, is probably somewhere in the middle.
What about Seinfeld?
It felt like a joke, but at the same time that brands and agencies were scrambling to adjust strategies and balance between great content marketing and advertising, Jerry Seinfeld decided to take Facebook for a test drive instead of a 1960s Ferrari. The famed stand-up comedian, smash TV series star, and now online video sensation with, Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, used Facebook to promote the latest season of his show. He was so impressed that he posted a note to Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, saying that he “might be on to something” with this Facebook thing. Seinfeld’s post was seen by over twelve million people. The “boost post” tab was still there, so I’m not sure whether or not anyone in the Seinfeld camp boosted the post or not, but it “feels” like this was organic.
Seinfeld was organic. Can you get organic reach like that?
No, you’re not Seineld. No, you’re not asking people to check out one of the hottest online shows. Still, it would seem like Seinfeld is at the same level of mercy to Facebook’s throttling algorithm as the rest of us. The reach, shares and likes pushed it through because… Wait for it… People care. You don’t need to reach everyone on Facebook (don’t fool yourself). You just need to create content that is compelling enough for your audience (compelling enough that they want to share it with their friends). Even if you can’t reach your entire audience (and only a small fraction of it), the content should be compelling enough for them to take action. Forrester will think that I’m crazy (Brands Are Wasting Money on Facebook and Twitter, Forrester Says). Fine. I’m, typically, the eternal optimist when it comes to this sort of stuff.
What do you think?