A while ago, Facebook stopped giving users a reverse-chronological view of their news feed by default, and replaced it with a list of stories hand-picked by their “EdgeRank” algorithm. This spawned a number of blog posts and info-graphics explaining, for example, Why 84% of Your Facebook Fans Are Lurkers. This was supposedly intended to show you the content you were most interested in, by figuring out what you really liked. Yeah right.
The real intent of the algorithm is to allow them to artificially limit the exposure of Page posts. Companies and individuals work hard to create Facebook Pages, to build a “Fan” base, and to push out interesting, relevant posts to the people that “Like” them. Facebook’s algorithm hides most of their posts from your view.
So now that they’ve created a shortage, how is a Page supposed to actually reach its fans, which have expressed interest in their content by “Liking” their page? Easy: You have to pay the piper!
Facebook’s “Marketing Solutions” Page posted a note today explaining that in order to make sure your fans see your posts, you need to purchase ads to “sponsor” those stories! They’ve given you a platform to publish on and made it look very promising. They lured you in, telling you that you could easily reach people who are interested in you. But then they changed the rules. Now they want you to pay for what you’ve taken for granted. And users who think they are getting the content they are interested in are often surprised to find out that Facebook is deciding for them what is important. Most users have no idea they are doing this. Does it benefit them? No. Does it benefit Page owners? No. Who does it benefit? Facebook, and its future investors.
Does Twitter do this? No. Does Google+ do this? No. Facebook’s hubris is reaching new extremes.
As Facebook cruises towards its IPO, it’s obvious that profit is the driving force behind all of its decisions, users be damned. Most of its design and functionality decisions are made in an attempt to serve more and better targeted ads to the user, and to artificially control access to information so they can charge for it.
As the popular phrase goes, “If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” You’re now being sold to Page owners who want you to see their content, in the form of ads and sponsored stories. Let the slippery slope begin…