Have We Been Fed a Facebook Farce?

Posted on June 10, 2014

Brands, companies, charities and the like have all been told how important Facebook is for growing their audience and engaging followers online.

It took some longer than others, but it seems that most public entities have bowed to popular pressure and now feature phrases like “Find us on Facebook!” or “Like our page!” on flyers, newsletters and promotional material.

We get it, Facebook is inescapable. All that good press about the social media platform’s supposed benefits have sold even the most reluctant of organizations.

The problem is, no matter how many upbeat promo videos they release, Facebook is not some friendly organism that revels in connecting people. It is a cold, hard money-making machine.

Perhaps you stumbled upon this article on Gawker released earlier this week. It details how Facebook is “in the process of” slashing “organic page reach” down to 1 or 2 percent. This means that a company like Nike, who has amassed over 16 million Facebook followers, would soon only be able to engage with about 16,000 of them.

Let’s just say that being able to reach 1 or 2 percent of your audience isn’t exactly ideal, regardless of which social media strategy is trending right now. I mean, let’s face it, 1 to 2 percent reach is abysmal.

Enter Facebook’s brilliant new income generating strategy: get businesses to pay just to have access to their own followers.

The article sums it up perfectly: “Companies on Facebook will have to pay or be pointless.”

Digital Sharecropping

It’s stuff like this that really brings home how dangerous it is for any brand or business to build up their audience on a third-party platform.

This is known as Digital Sharecropping and has been likened to modern-day Serfdom. Brands make use of public spaces owned by landlords (like Facebook or Twitter) to create a following and communicate with their audience.

But when a landlord wants to change the rules of engagement or just up and sell the whole shebang, it’s the brands that are out in the dust.

What’s worse is that if the new strategy goes ahead, businesses will be paying to reach followers that they’ve probably already paid Facebook to acquire.

All that aggressive advice encouraging brands to buy Facebook ads to increase page Likes? What was the point when Facebook can come around and make 98 to 99 percent of your followers unreachable?

The Takeaway

As much as we love to think of social media platforms as allies in the growth of our brands and businesses, we need to be aware that they keep their eye firmly on the bottom line.

At the end of the day, they don’t really care about your little circle of followers – no matter how much effort you put into recruiting them.

I’m not saying that you should do away with any and all third-party platforms, but do make an effort to diversify your portfolio. And make sure that you have at least one place that you own, such as a self-hosted website, where you can direct all your traffic from other shared social media sites.

That way if Facebook or Twitter or any of the myriad of new networking sites comes up with a lucrative new strategy to cut you off from your public, you still have other avenues to maintain your audience.

Facebook has made it quite clear: it doesn’t pay to have all your eggs in one basket.

photo credit: zeevveez via photopin cc

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