Maybe 'JunkFood' stories are exactly what #Facebook users want
I'm going to wade into this debate about Facebook's newsfeed changes, falling organic page post reach and their motivation to dictate what users should consider is 'valuable' content.
My reading on these topics most recently include;
- AllthingsD: Facebook Wants to Be a Newspaper. Facebook Users Have Their Own Ideas.
- Streamfeed: Facebook Pages: Is Your Facebook Organic Reach Down?
- Business Insider: This Facebook Exec Doesn't Like Buzzfeed, And That's Very Bad News For Buzzfeed
Paul Adams, the Global Brand Experience Manager at Facebook up until May 2013 once talked about "Many lightweight interactions" as a key element of Facebook.
That really resonated with me and many other marketers around the world. Our belief was that users often took to Facebook for many short bursts, checking in to keep up with friends, family, trending topics, news and whatever else appeared in their newsfeed.
The beauty of Facebook was the Social Graph. Where [to my understanding] content appeared in your newsfeed as a result of a 'collective consciousness', IE if your friends and friends of friends like'd or interacted with content on Facebook it would be more likely to appear in your newsfeed. Then we moved to the 'Interest graph', a slight modification of Facebook calculations to give weight to content you showed an 'interest' in. A 'like' told Facebook you were interested in receiving similar content or more from the same source, like brand pages or news publishers etc.
In 2013 the term 'Snack Media' has become popular. Highlighting users behaviour to consume many light weight pieces of content, quickly, many times per day.
Sites like Buzzfeed, Upworthy, Viralnova all curate and publish bite sized pieces of content that run wild through the interwebs fuelled by Facebook and users who crave snack media.
However now Facebook head honchos are debating whether this is offering any 'value' to the user.
My opinion is if it wasn't providing any value, people wouldn't be consuming and sharing so actively.
Organic page post reach is dropping
The guys at Facebook say that there is increasing competition for newsfeed space, thus organic reach is dropping. This could well be the case but from a brand's perspective this isn't very encouraging.
Brands promote their Facebook page through traditional media, Facebook promotions and ads etc, spending money to connect with their customers and fans and getting them to like/subscribe to their page.
Once they've made that investment Facebook is now forcing brands to spend increasingly more money to connect with them.
This is changing the way users experience Facebook. No longer are users newsfeeds full of content they have subscribed to or their friends have interacted with. It's filled with paid, promoted posts that may have little to no value what so ever. The balance of content in newsfeeds has changed.
Facebook is changing that saying "You don't find the news, the news finds you". Now "Facebook will show you the news it's paid to put in front of you".
Facebook wants to be the new newspaper
That would make Mark Z Chief Editor and frankly thats a very scary proposition.
I'd rather I was my own editor, subscribing to the content that I want to receive creating my own newsfeed of curated content and subscriptions from publishers and friends.
While that analogy sounds very much like Twitter; the difference for me is fast. Twitter has a much broader scope, a wider lens than Facebook which is mostly tuned to people I know IRL and those brands/publishers I want to subscribe to. Not all brands on Facebook are also on Twitter so the value is shared between the two networks.
Let the people decide what's valuable and what's not
Facebook's job should be to:
- Make content look as good as it possibly can.
- Show me content I or my friends have shown an interest in before [post likes, comments or shares]
- Show me content from pages and groups that I have 'Liked' [subscribed to]
Page posts should reach their fans organically over a period of time. If the post fails to gain any interactions then it should naturally fall off newsfeeds. If the post does get liked and shared etc then it will be naturally boosted to appear longer and in more peoples newsfeeds.
Brands should continue to be able to pay to reach a certain targeted group of users through self service or premium media bookings. The price you pay for that post to reach that audience should continue to be a bidding process based on supply and demand to optimise users experience and variety of content in their newsfeeds.
It appears Facebook's motivation to maximise revenue from the newsfeed and dictate what people should find interesting is altering newsfeed content. This in itself is reducing the 'usefulness' of Facebook.
These are my thoughts and observations. It appears opinions and motivations at Facebook are changing. The last thing Facebook need to do is make it any more complicated for users and marketers to understand or people will continue to increase investment in alternative platforms.