There's been a whole lot of opinion pieces floating about recently about Facebook and its recent changes. Here’s my thoughts to add to the fray:
The next two years are going to be the most crucial in Facebook’s history to see if it can flourish long term or whether it will slowly decline and join the social media graveyard.
The reason for this and the discussions doing the rounds on the internet is the changes Facebook is making to promote paid advertising options on the one hand whilst simultaneously further restricting organic reach for content on business pages. Facebook’s latest alteration to its Edgrank algorithm sees it, in certain tests, resulting in only a reach of 6% of your total audience. Shame if you're trying to attract the other 94%.
The options to work around this – massively improve your content or pay for advertising.
The site understandably must be having to play a very difficult game in balancing shareholder desires for profit against the millions of businesses who use the site as their main source (or in some cases their only source) of promotion. It is though a campaign that needs the utmost delicacy to avoid an exodus of businesses whilst trying to increase advertising revenue.
I'm not going to sit here and write about the ways to advertise or improve your page. Instead this post is going to take a look at how I think Facebook could actually achieve their goals of increasing revenue. After all Facebook is about connecting everyone and that should mean every business (and person), regardless of their budgets should be able to promote themselves, shouldn't they?
The hurdles which Facebook might face:
People still don’t know how Facebook Works
It’s always free and easy to get started on Facebook. In the heady days of 2009 before Edgreank took its toll, the magic formula was; update your status, add a link and hey! there’s some traffic through to your site.
Yet, still today in 2014 if you mention the word ‘Edgrank’ people look at you blankly. Some business owners I've met weren't aware Edgerank even existed, let alone what it is, or what to do about it. I’d be interested in seeing some data on this to see the general awareness of this, but I imagine most business haven’t the time to focus on the intricacies of algorithmic updates when they have an actual business to run.
Facebook then needs to have a massive educational push to both explain Edgerank, quality and how to avoid a diminished reach on their posts, before they then go on to explain the advantages of advertising; something which could be an uphill battle.
Advertising is considered low quality
When it comes to actual ads Facebook provides some fine examples of businesses which are using them well, but I'm sure most people have seen ads or which have absolutely zero relevancy to them.
This isn't Facebook’s fault, it’s the fault of the advertiser who weren't specific enough when choosing their advertising options. You can target an ad based demographics, age groups, locations, interests and other pages which people are following. It’s amazingly specific and can be used to great effect. But because people don’t seem to understand how this works, or won’t be specific enough, bad ads appear on the site, which in my opinion fundamentally wear down the sites as a network which displays quality advertising. The ads currently on my page are for used cars and the Army Cadet Force. What the advertisers have put in for me to be a relevant prospect I really have no idea.
Because Facebook is pushing to improve overall quality of the network this should be site wide- including improving both pages and ads alike. Unfortunately most people have had years of seeing poor ads on Facebook, so even though they're an effective advertising tool, businesses completely new to the idea might already have a negative impression of it.
Ultimately though times are changing. If businesses have the funds available to invest in advertising or generating more engaging content then Facebook should prove to be as effective as it’s always been, just with a higher price tag.
But what about all the other pages, who can’t, don’t or won’t take on these increased responsibilities? Either they’ll continue to produce the same content in the same way, and see minimal or zero returns. Or they’ll give up on the site completely.
Coming back to my point before though, ultimately, Facebook is there to making the world more open and connected. Facebook might be cutting the wheat from the chaff by trying to increase 'quality' but I personally think the chaff still has an integral role in making Facebook what it is. Users should be able to easily engage with every sort of business from the humblest start up to the largest multinational regardless of the businesses budget to get around Edgerank.
The way to solve this? A massive educational push is needed from Facebook to persuade everyone with a page the benefits of advertising or how they can make their page better. Facebook seems to have started the ball rolling with a seires of 'Facebook Fit' bootcamps for the small businesses in the US. These look like a great start, especially for the price of $25.00, but doing this en masse? That's a massive challenge indeed, but if Facebook can attract a billion people into signing up I'm hopeful they can make it happen.