They never really liked you – Why you should stop complaining about having to pay to reach your Facebook fans.

 

 Is your Facebook timeline flooded with brands complaining about new Facebook restrictions and plaintively asking you to click “add to interests”? Thomas Scovell tells us why he thinks it’s all bogus.

 

Apparently Facebook are screwing small businesses by showing their page posts to only a small portion of their “fans”. This is, of course, because Facebook wants those bereft brands to start buying promoted posts to reach the rest of their audience.

Except this isn’t the case. Yes, Facebook want to sell more advertising – they want to monetise the platform they spend millions of dollars developing and which they allow consumers and businesses to use with no (financial) cost. It’d be a cheap bastard indeed who thought there should be no value exchange involved.

But what I’m seeing posted about this purported change is entering conspiracy theory territory. All Facebook’s tweaks to EdgeRank of late are showing is that your supposed fans, who Liked your page, were never really fans.

Admit it to yourself – you bought most of your Likes didn’t you. You ran a competition, had a Like-gate, offered an iPad in exchange for a couple of clicks. And now you’re surprised that these same people, who were more interested in a freebie than your business to start with, aren’t receiving all your posts about you?

Think of yourself as an individual using Facebook now, not a business. In the past 6 months are you reading that much more Facebook than previously? Probably not. How many new pages have you liked? 20? 30? 50? How many new friends have you added? A dozen? More?

So what does Facebook do when you pull up the app or open your stream on the desktop? They look at your behaviour and figure out which stories you’re most likely to be interested in. Otherwise, with your growing set of Likes and friends, you’d be increasingly overwhelmed with new stories. Ones of potentially low relevance that would obscure the more interesting ones deeper in your stream. And hey, if you do want to see everything posted by everyone, you can always click on “most recent”.

A colleague recently told me about an issue his mother-in-law was having with Facebook. They’d had a new child recently and naturally, this meant his wife was posting more often as she kept friends and family updated on the new baby. It turns out though, his mother-in-law wasn’t seeing them all. Now this guy had seen George Takei post about the issue with Facebook restricting how many people see posts and George had included a tip about adding a page to your interests list. His mother-in-law had tried this trick… and it worked!

Except the instructions George had given were bogus. So it couldn’t have. “But, but”, my colleague said, “George Takei has 2 million fans, he must know what he’s talking about”. He’s a hilarious dude, but he doesn’t.

If you just try and follow the instructions for doing this that are popping up everywhere, and pay attention, you’ll see they result in absolutely nothing. To add someone to an interests list you need to complete a number of steps not given. And lists aren’t for this purpose anyway…

But even if the instructions are bogus, the result seems to be that the missing posts start appearing in your feed again. So in some way, it works. But how? It isn’t in the attempt to add a user or page to an interests list, it is the mere act of visiting their page.

Facebook look at a number of engagement signals to determine if you are interested in a person or a business. Whether you Like, share or comment on their pages are prime ones. As is whether you visit their timeline rather than just passively waiting for their posts in your stream. It is a pretty clear signal that if you’re looking at someone’s page you are interested to see everything they’ve posted lately.

So when my colleague’s mother-in-law visited his wife’s page – she sent a clear signal to Facebook that she wanted to see more of her posts in her stream. Facebook acted on this implicit signal. Implicit signals are both more accurate, and less effort for a user, than forcing them to have to explicitly say who they want to hear from lots.

What does this mean for businesses? Stop posting to your fans about being added to their interests lists. It will, inadvertently, work short-term for some people but will eventually wear out as they fail to engage with your posts. Anyway, 1) Only people who already showed they were interested in you would see this please post anyway. 2) They’re not going to do it if they don’t really like you anyway. 3) You look desperate and whiney.

The only real solution to this “problem” is to stop being whiney and douchey. To admit there is a difference between a Like (uppercase L – someone Liking your page) and liking (lowercase – someone actually being a fan). And concentrate on creating great content that your fans will respond to. By Liking it, sharing it, commenting on it. The more people who do, the more Facebook will go, “hey people are loving this post, let’s see how more people respond to it.”

Stop buying Likes and fooling yourself that your high count is anything more than a factor of a give-away and admit most of those people were never likely to become advocates or customers in the first place. Concentrate on those who will.

Fire your social media douche-bag and tell him to take his little bag of tricks elsewhere. As a business owner, marketeer, or agency for one – do what you can do well, create great stories and exciting content (and experiences) about your business. Spend the effort on that not on the tricks. For all of Facebook’s problems – they’ve actually created a platform that mostly rewards that.

Now Like this post so you see more from me.

Editor in Chief at here SMNZ, I have a passion for social and digital media. When not writing and managing SMNZ I am the Head of Innovation at TAG The Agency, a digital ad agency and the Head of Sales and Marketing for End-Game, a software development agency. I'm also involved with a number of startups and I am always keen to support those that are bold enough to give things a go. Start something, better to try than to live wondering what if...

9 Comments

  1. Ross McDougall Reply

    Excellent article. So many brand owners need to understand that they will owner create brand ambassadors through strong page CONTENT. The flow on effect from that is increased page use, and increased viability. 

    Embrace page/user interaction, encourage discussion and engagement. Running futile competitions to increase a ‘likebase’ of users who ultimately will never engage with your page (except to win that free ipad you gave away in the first week) is completely useless. 

  2. onblur Reply

    Not sure people are complaining – just reminding people what snake-oil looks like. We should all know better. Good article.

  3. TuroTuroNZ Reply

    Interesting that I posted feedback to this yesterday but it wasn’t accepted.  Great way to walk the talk … not.

    1. socialmedianz Reply

      Haha we’ve just checked and it looks like it was classified as spam. However, you’ll be happy to know we’ve made it live now 🙂

  4. Katherine Tattersfield Reply

    I get your point; nevertheless, I think you’re trying to down play the impact too much. I’m attaching a graph from my insights last week. Since that time, my page has grown from 563 likes to 591. These are completely organic fans. I’ve never paid a dime for FB ads or used traffic sharing networks. Most of the fans actually visit this business while others are referrals from our website. The graph clearly shows I’m getting more traffic, and it’s high quality traffic because my engagement rates are up, too. The only thing that’s going down is the reach. If you have an alternative explanation for this, please share it.

  5. Seamus Corless Reply

    agreeing in principle, there is still great value in competitions generating fans. FB can target the exact demographic the company is seeking, and in my experience there is minimal fall off of likes after a comp has been drawn. Yes there are a small percentage of professional ‘compers’ but in the main, achieving a higher fan base in your target demo, combined with great content, means more people will see your posts AND brand awareness is increased. Unlike traditional media, this is a nil wastage spend – so long as you target the right people in the first place.

  6. Zo Zhou Reply

    Thanks for the insight into how this all works.

    As a user, I’d actually prefer to be able to choose whether to view all posts from pages I’ve liked (or not) and be able to “opt out” of seeing posts from a particular page if that page was starting to irk me. The whole point of liking the page was so that I could stay up to date with the business without having to think about it too much.

    Also I’d disagree that facebook aren’t getting something out of its users – targeted page & url advertising provided plenty of revenue before promoted posts. As a profit-maximising business, it’s understandable that facebook would turn to the current model. However, it DOES somewhat suck for small businesses and nonprofits who have smaller marketing budgets and are therefore indirectly disadvantaged.

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