Rise and Shine

Facebook Timeline: Another Nail in the Coffin

Mark Zuckerberg announces Timeline changeMark Zuckerberg himself previously acknowledged that Facebook has been unethical at times, and privacy concerns have been one of the primary objections to Facebook since it began its rise to power. Users often leave Facebook on the grounds of privacy violations, but most of those users eventually return to the social giant. The privacy concerns are centered around the bevy of information Facebook collects, which coincidentally was previously the most valuable aspect of premium advertisement on Facebook.

 

Since the fall of 2011 Facebook has actively reduced the value a brand can get from interaction through fan pages. Their EdgeRank algorithm demotes most content that originates from a page automatically, and estimates put the amount of content that actually gets viewed by users at less than 20 percent. The majority of brands on Facebook do not purchase paid advertisements on the platform, and rely on updates that get distributed to users as their primary means of communication.

 

For the Good of the Few, Many must Suffer

On the other end of the spectrum, Businesses that could afford Facebook’s premium ad service considered the ad space to be worthless, despite the user targeting possibilities. Ads are relegated to an area that tests badly in heat mapping and the platform considers several of their most high traffic pages off limits to advertising.

 

Facebook will deal another substantial blow to brands hoping for a free ride on Facebook at the end of March. They intend to convert all existing brand pages to the timeline format, which will end the use of branded landing pages.

 

In the wake of their IPO announcement, Facebook is looking to expand their revenue stream by converting as many brands who have invested a lot of time and effort into building followings into brands that will now invest a lot of money into reaching those followers.

 

The tradeoff that Facebook hopes most marketers will accept is the ability to produce sponsored stories that will reach a much higher percentage of users than current branded Facebook content. Since users already spend most of their time on the Facebook feed itself, this could wind up being an interesting proposition.

 

Facebook’s actions have seemingly been leading to this the whole time, but it is almost breaking the social media promise when you alienate the people who produce the majority of the extended and viral content that gets shared on your platform.

 

Pay to Play: You were Only Leasing those Fans

Content marketing, blogging, viral campaigns and curation all are built on the premise that if you can build a large network and engage your following, you can generate some effective marketing with little investment capital. Businesses and entrepreneurs have been embracing this for years now, and have made past investments on Facebook under the pretense that once you got a fan, they were a fan for life as long as they didn’t choose to opt-out themselves. With the advent of EdgeRank, it became apparent that Facebook was only leasing you access to those consumers; you’d need to pay your dues to reach them as effectively from now on.

 

Currently only 12 percent of your friends will see your status update if you share from a personal profile on Facebook. Posts on Facebook pages reach just 16 percent of the people who have liked your page on average. With the new ad schematic, brands will be able to buy back some of the last reach with “sponsored stories”. Users that have already liked your page are likely to be more receptive to your advertisements, but developers were under the impression that a Facebook like was a license to advertise for free. There is just no way around feeling like you’re getting violated in this new agreement if you spent any amount of time in the past promoting for Facebook likes.

 

This isn’t going to sit well with a lot of people, but Facebook seems to hold all the cards. Their user base is over three times as large as their next closest competitor, users spend dramatically more time per visit on Facebook than other social networks, and it is a hard building to tear down because the primary draw is that you can connect with just about everyone.

 

So even though I foresee a slight outrage from boutique social media marketers and online businesses who have been playing for free all this time, there is most definitely going to be a long line of businesses with an advertising budget looking to capitalize on the new opportunity to reach more people.

 

Previously it was most effective to send a Facebook user to your Facebook page in an ad. After the change to timeline, marketers will have to question whether they want to spend more money driving traffic to a place that will need constant investment to keep relevant. Even with 10,000 fans, brands will not be able to reach but a few of them without amping up their posts to sponsored status.

 

What about alternatives? With this new structure, Facebook is inviting competition and alternative means of using the Facebook platform to reach customers. With the Open Graph API, it is possible to make users spread your stories instead of through your business fan page. We sometimes forget that we’re on the Internet, a place that is notorious for providing free answers to proprietary questions.

 

The Vocal Majority will be Quiet Because we Own their Platform

Facebook is ultimately betting that any initial backlash will subside quickly and that the lure of access to nearly a billion active users is enough to silence the screams of even the most outspoken of critics. There’s always a chance that businesses were somehow keeping the consumers loyal to Facebook despite privacy concerns, but if you’ve ever heard of Occupy Wall Street you’d know that consumers are wary of marketing anyway, and an outraged advertising industry will only make them want to stay with Facebook even more.

 

Have we seen the end of free access to customers on the world’s largest social network? Or will the Facebook fan page merely evolve into a destination for users to come whenever they have something to say? I guess we won’t really know until after March 30, the day the timeline goes into effect for all pages. Take some time and consider some ideas about how to best implement Timeline for your brand. Look at how other brands like Social Media Sun have handled the change. It’s important to be aware that you’re ultimately losing ground in this change, but to make the best of it for the sake of your business.

 

What are your thoughts on the new Facebook brand pages? Do you spend money advertising on Facebook already? Will the changes cause you to start?

 

Optimizing Your Facebook Campaign

Facebook Timeline Tutorial and [INFOGRAPHIC]

Top 10 Applications for Branded Facebook Timelines

Adam Justice

rel=author">Adam Justiceis the founder of Social Media Sun, and an accomplished web developer / online marketing specialist.Check out Adam Justice's personal website or contact him through Twitter .

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12 comments

  1. I am a bit of a fan of Facebook Timeline but I do agree that things have changed drastically. I also believe that the changes were created to promote a better avenue for Facebook to capitalize financially from the billions of Fans. It’s almost like a bait and switch, give them something for free, let them build their business by way of FREE Facebook pages and once they are dependent upon us we change up. I think ultimately the goal is to sell more Facebook ads and the chances to do so multiply ( or maybe in theory) when the free channels of Facebook promotion of business is substantially minimized by eliminating landing pages and not allowing a call to action on cover images. I guess, like you said time will tell.

    • You’re on the same page as me Anise, even though they probably didn’t plan this all along. Social media was very attractive to small business before Edge Rank because it was essentially free to try. If you were good with people and spent a lot of time on Facebook anyway, even a small business like a boutique photographer could stay top of mind. One of my friends even parlayed her social media presence into a job photographing Maroon 5 (she used her Facebook influence to win a contest). 

      I have run several ad campaigns on Facebook, but even if buying “reach” as they call it is more effective, I still feel like I’m getting ripped off. Thanks for stopping by Anise, always great to see you!

  2. I have to disagree, which I hate, because I really dislike Facebook these days.  

    But, without making this change, things were getting insane (in fact, I’m about to release an article about that!)  Listen, I know it may seem cheesy to have to pay money to reach an entire “fan base.”  You know what else sounds cheesy?  A search results system based on inbound links and keyword density.  C’mon, everything we do with digital marketing seems.. well, odd.

    If Facebook doesn’t limit your posts to 16% of your audience, the user-experience would be HORRID.  Think about it now.  Social marketers are destroying the system by boosting engagement and manipulating posts through verbiage like, “today is sunny.. hit that like button if you agree!”  Seriously? And yes, people will hit that “like” button – because we’re trained, as humans, to do as we’re told.

    Facebook wants to go back to basics.  Brand pages should never have had “landing destinations,” or like-gates.  Facebook is a platform that lets people connect to people, and with time, people connecting to things they love.  

    Personally, I don’t love 512 people who agree it is sunny outside.  Nor, do I really like Walmart because they forced me into giving them a “thumbs up” to get a coupon.

    Sheesh.  Us marketers.

    Listen Adam, I agree with your post.  But the title “only leasing those fans” is incorrect. This is the problem with social media.

    You don’t own fans.  You earn fans.

    The problem is that Facebook gave brands the impression that they could buy fans.  And that, my friends, must stop.  

    • “Buying Fans” was actually the previous spiel Facebook used to sell advertising. You were encouraged to link your ads to your Facebook page as opposed to your own domain, and since no one really saw this coming it seemed like a good idea. I wrote heavily about in my last e-book (which Facebook will make 25% obsolete as of March 29.)

      I never said you own fans, but the gentlemens agreement between businesses that spent time marketing to people to get a “like” on their Facebook page was what that entailed: access to that person’s Facebook stream until they chose to deny you access, not Facebook. It keeps you honest because it really takes very little to rub a fan the wrong way. Since there are several ways to deny someone access to your Feed, it paid you to mind your Ps and Qs. Putting the power in the user’s hands is what I advocate, and I have to give the average user a little more credit than the sheeple that like stuff because they love hitting buttons.

      I haven’t saw anything like “It’s sunny outside, hit LIKE if you agree”, and I personally would advise against that type of passive manipulation. A lot of users spur conversations only to game engagement as well, and that is totally at odds with social media best practices for business. For the most part a business’s presence on any social network should be in the form of a person. A person who is normal and acts like a human being. I wouldn’t ever go on Facebook and ask a question I already know the answer to, and when social media managers do that type of thing it makes them look foolish.

      I remember unliking pages about 16 months ago because they posted too much, but since then it hasn’t been a problem. It sounds like your problem has more to do with how many pages you like and which pages you like. Social Media has always been a self policing area. When brands post too much, people unlike them. They realize the error of their ways and adjust their behavior. When brands behave badly, fans retaliate. Facebook is the equivalent of government regulation on free trade – it will penalize the brands who are good for the “social economy” and will allow the intrusive brands to buy their way into anywhere. People who liked the Atlanta Braves page were supposed to be interested in receiving updates from them. Average users still use Facebook that way, but I think you may have been exposed to social media super users who like way too often for the wrong reasons. Remember that those people are a vocal minority, and the average user has under 100 likes. 100 likes of brands that they want all the updates from… the same from their friends. They accepted the requests becaue they wanted to hear from them, and there are plenty of options for slowing or stopping those updates if the ever become too numerous.

      This change has nothing to do with user experience and everything to do with fattening Facebook’s wallet, so I don’t think I’ll ever give it the thumbs up. I may make the best of it, but I wouldn’t have made this change if I owned Facebook no matter how rich it would make me. Funny that a business (represented by conservative anti-regulation interests) will use a progressive liberal approach to governing their own community. Thanks for stopping by though Olin, I may not totally agree with what you’re saying, but you’re in the 98% that gets heard on Social Media Sun, not the 84% that you’d never know was there on Facebook 😉

      • While I’ll respectfully disagree with a couple of your comments, I understand your POV on the subject.

        I don’t know your hands-on experience with social media, but speaking from my experience within the agency world, I assure you – those “passive manipulations” are conducted quite frequently.  Because (to the majority) it can expand reach, which maximizes the ROI of each post.  I’m actually a bit shocked you don’t see more of this.. because I witness brands everyday doing ANYTHING they can to promote simple, ineffective and erroneous actions.

        Regardless, I’m a firm believer these things don’t police themselves. In fact, we conducted a few focus groups a while back and literally 75% of the subjects didn’t even know how to “dislike” (if that is the term) a page after it was already liked.

        And, of course, there are plenty of studies floating around that clearly reveal the majority of users are only “liking” a page for the incentive, with little, if any, motive to ever return.

        Good conversation.  Thanks for the post.  I’ll follow the blog.

  3. Another lesson in why we shouldn’t put all our eggs in someone else’s basket. Build engagement and relationships, but focus on doing it on your own bit of territory (your website). Other people’s websites are completely beyond your control.

    • I agree with that 100% Tea. A lot of people have done just that though, and they don’t want to hear that they may not have made the best decision. Hostory does tend to repeat itself, and just like Justin Beiber will go the way of New Kids on the Block, Facebook will eventually not be the best thing since sliced bread. 

  4. Michael Reilly /

    Pages are a way to indicate things you like. It doesn’t mean we want a stream of crap in our feeds. Currently, Facebook displays content from people and pages we interact with more than those we do not. That means we don’t have to unlike/unfriend people we aren’t as interested in, and that means we might be exposed to them periodically and be ok with it. 

    I “Liked” Seinfeld and some other shows and suddenly my feed was filled with daily notices that the show was on. That’s noise I don’t need. I know where to find it if I want it. I just wanted to express my liking of the shows. I have specifically avoided liking other brands/shows because I didn’t want more junk in my feed. 

    Whining over the inability to spam your followers is missing the fact that people already self filter their content. If you’re not thinking about that and how your marketing actions influence those decisions, then the long-term success of any such efforts is questionable. 

    • Olin Graczyk /

      Well stated.  Again, this update makes the Facebook experience for the end-user much better.  

      If marketers could behave themselves, then Facebook wouldn’t have to police our industry like they are.

      The problem is, marketers have a tendency to destroy everything (Newspaper, then Radio, then TV, then Email, then Online Advertising, now Social Media).

  5. I must admit a lot of this goes over my head Adam. But I did appreciate the parts I understood. Shared and I hope you have a lovely week-end :)

  6. It’s amazing how 9 months later, pages are almost dead. This is not the customary gripe about this or that feature. This is a fundamental betrayal of a partnership agreement with hundreds of thousands of business people. People say no one should complain because it’s free. It’s not free if you as a page admin invested hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars, or hours, developing your page as a platform partner, paying Facebook ads along the way. After getting folks to invest massive amounts of time, energy and money all over the world to develop pages, and get fans, they have pulled the rug out from under them and instead of making things right they are spinning a yarn for sheep. 

    No one who manages a  number of pages is duped by a let’s crunch the numbers and see approach, except for the most novice. If you manage three pages or more you know it has nothing to do with engagement, content quality or anything else. The most “perfectly designed to spec” posts, with Pulitzer prize hand-crafted compelling phrasing, and a video, go nowhere. Their spin is spin. This makes them a highly unreliable platform with which to partner, and they have lost most if not all trust and credibility they had with page admins. I doubt they will recoup significantly from this “last straw” and most of the developers I know are moving over to Google+ which seems a much more reliable partner.

    On a more macro level, one basic question could be this: “Should any social media, where 50% of the content is generated by users, be allowed to censor your newsfeed at all. And if so will it survive doing so?

  7. Maverick /

    My FB page were missing. Report my case to FB does not improve. Any how this work.? My page name Jayden Entertainment

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