Brands began seeing the reach of their posts dwindle until Facebook finally said brands will have to pay to be seen. Facebook was gaming its own system to force brands to pay. It seems shady – like “here’s a free one to get you hooked and after that, it’s going to cost you” shady. Many (myself included) who were sold on the premise of free felt like they had been had.
Facebook was supposed to be different.
Facebook and marketers, gurus and other experts promised brands a new way to connect to consumers, customers and fans. People would invite brands into their Newsfeeds, talk about the brand, and share branded content with their friends. This unprecedented level of engagement would challenge the effectiveness of traditional advertising. And, it was mostly free.
Now Facebook has turned into one of those traditional advertising platforms it was supposed to challenge. The obvious culprit is Facebook becoming a public company, but others are pointing to a flawed promise of engagement and disruption. Sure, promoted posts may not look like ads in the traditional sense, but brands are paying to deliver a message in a specific medium. Sounds like a dictionary definition of advertising.
Ads on Facebook and social media aren’t new. Most major platforms have some sort of promoted unit that advertisers can use insert their content into a user’s feed, often to those who do not follow the brand. Facebook is different because it uses an algorithm to determine what each individual user sees in their feed rather than everything from everyone that they like or follow.
Facebook’s priority is its 1.19 billion users, specifically, the data these users create as they interact on the platform. Inhibiting brand content from users so that they see more of what they want, keeps users on the platform and creating data. As a result, Facebook is armed with a data goldmine that is too enticing to ignore, even by those that are miffed about the new price tag.
Time to Eat Our Vegetables
The reality is that brands now have to work harder and spend even more to reach their followers. As Unmarketing author Scott Stratten explains it, we’ve been living in Facebook’s house for free and now the rent is due. (Watch his Facebook rant below). While I have to agree with his point, I still don’t like it.
Facebook has opened a new door in social media advertising. It will be interesting (and probably annoying) to see if other platforms find ways to game their systems. We’ll be bummed, but we should see it coming.
(Careful, contains a few nsfw words)