Once again, Facebook has changed the algorithm governing its new feed. We discuss likely consequences of that move.
Over the past five years or so, social network, Facebook, has been an essential channel through which businesses market and advertise their products and services to the social network’s 1.5 billion-plus subscribers. In turn, paid advertisements have become a major source of revenue for the firm, and the archetype of the create-a-network-and-the money-will follow business model that numerous tech start-ups and ventures have sought to emulate.
However, last week, Facebook announced it would again be changing algorithm it uses to determine what posts are seen by subscribers in their news feeds. On 29 June, Facebook announced that it would be changing its news feed ranking so that posts by family and friends are given the greatest priority and as a result, would be found higher up the news feed.
Publishers, advertisers and marketers likely to be adversely affected
While Facebook indicated that the adjustment it is making is in direct response to its subscribers’ concerns and desires, the move appears to be at odds with its past efforts to encourage publishers, advertisers, marketers, etc., to use the medium and post content. However, it admits that the intended change is likely to cause a decline in reach and referral traffic “for some [Facebook] Pages” (Source: Facebook). Major publishers – that post dozens of articles, videos, etc., daily – are expected to be adversely affected. However, Facebook was of the view that:
The specific impact on your Page’s distribution and other metrics may vary depending on the composition of your audience. For example, if a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it, there will be less of an impact than if the majority of your traffic comes directly through Page posts.
Sadly the reality might a far cry from what is envisaged, especially for smaller publishers, such as ICT Pulse (for example), that expect their posts to be included in the news feeds of (at least) some of their followers, which in turn would drive the referrals. However, if content from friends and family is being promoted – to the detriment of posts on Facebook Pages – when might a Page follower see a post from a Facebook Page, if it is no longer being readily featured in his/her news feed?
More paid advertising?
In light of the intended changes, it could be argued that Facebook wants to push more businesses towards paid advertising, as opposed to relying on the organic reach of posts. However, even paid advertising should suffer if the emphasis is on user-centric content. A recent Forbes article on the subject indicated the following consequences:
As a result of the decline in organic reach, it’s likely that more publishers are going to flock to paid advertising on Facebook to make up the difference. After all, it’s relatively inexpensive—at least for now. With more brands swarming to paid advertising to make up the losses on the organic side, it’s likely that Facebook will be forced to raise prices, or even adopt a more aggressive kind of bidding platform, similar to what we see in Google AdWords. This will make advertising less accessible to small business owners, and more of an expense for content publishers if they want to remain visible on the world’s biggest social media platform. This problem could be complicated even further if Facebook decides to restrict ad space in an even more concentrated effort to improve user experience.
Is it still worth it to market on Facebook?
So what does it all of this mean for businesses, especially Caribbean businesses and start-ups, that use Facebook to gain some visibility and to develop a customer base? So far, it does not look good. Whilst Facebook will continue to adjust its news feed algorithm, its usefulness into the immediate future may have diminished. Consequently Caribbean marketers, publishers, etc., may need to consider and rely other strategies – outside of Facebook – to secure the benefits that used to be realised on Facebook.
Image credit: mkhmarketing (flickr)