Facebook’s walled garden starts closing in

I’ve written about boosting facebook numbers, likes, interactions, comments for brands for quite a while a now. After all, one way of measuring a brand’s reach on Facebook is by looking at the number of people who interact with it. And interaction is what Social Media is all about.

BlueAnt Digital’s facebook strategy has always been based on ‘conversations’; getting people interested in what we’re saying, involving them in questions, discussions and debates and saying it at a time when they are most likely to talk: ‘The right people, the right time, the right network’ approach that we’ve spoken about in our blogs.

For a while now, I’ve seen that just content, conversation and the interactions that they cause, aren’t working as effectively as they used to. And I’m not the first to talk about it, Dangerous Minds spoke about it in October 2012, when they noticed that their Facebook page views were falling at an alarming rate. Everyone came to the same conclusion: to reach a ‘like-base’ that you already had, you had to start using the ‘Promote’ function. Simply put, you had to pay money to reach out to people who’d already said that they liked your product, service and page.

In our experience, we noticed that without the Promote function you only reach 10-20% of people who have liked your page. No matter what you post and how often you post it, that number doesn’t seem to change. The only solution then is to pay the pre-decided promotion price that Facebook offers you.

That was bad enough. But in the last two days, I’ve noticed advertisements spreading across the network like a cancer. Ads on the side of your newsfeed have increased in number. They have started showing up when you click on picture and it zooms out in a ‘light box’. Most disturbingly, ads have started showing up in the news feed much like status updates, shares and other content people and pages put up.

Newsfeed ads aren’t new; they have been present when you open Facebook on your smartphone. Now though, they appear regardless of what device you open on. It’s becoming harder to distinguish what is content and what is an advert.

Newspapers and lately, TV channels have championed this concept of blurring the line between content and paid-for-content. But its advent on Facebook implies that just like ‘mass media’ on Social Media too it’s the brands with the biggest pockets that will have the largest reach.

This is bad news for good content. This is bad news for brands that are just starting out and desperately need customers but are constraint by their budgets. After all Social Media, is ‘Social’, its about people and brands being able to reach out to other people. If that is hindered, then the ‘usefulness’ of Facebook has just taken a hit.

Clients are already asking me to find ‘rival networks’. As of now, there isn’t one as powerful as Facebook. But this monopoly may not last. May be something more ‘disruptive’ is around the corner.

In the meanwhile, it would make sense to start including paid-for advertising, and ‘promote’ function costs to your Social Media budgets.



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