Facebook. The democratizer of media. A platform for everyone. The platform that enabled individuals, bloggers and publishers to have a voice, build a community, and in so many cases, a career in social media and publishing, and for many women and mothers, their own business that allowed them to stay home with their kids, and build something of value - even employing other women.
That was awesome.
With the battle cry to build communities on Facebook, these bloggers and publishers used their influence, their resources, their creative energy to pull their audiences with them to Facebook.
Enter the Facebook algorithm bait and switch and many publisher's biggest regret.
But wait? All of these people signed up to hear from ME (and I told them to do it)
The bait and switch. Come and bring all of your friends, fans and readers! (and then years later we'll cut you off from everything)
But what does Facebook really owe the publisher?
Their new motto and promise: "Bring the world closer together"
By keeping your friends and fans further away from you. Brilliant!
The state of Facebook today is anything but bringing us closer together. Discourse is more toxic than ever and the algorithm itself favors it.
Interns and VA's Are Running The Show
There was a time when I wouldn't trust the scheduling of our Facebook content to ANYONE. I was the one that needed to review headlines, images, timing, real time response to our community. Most people treated their Facebook accounts that way.
Fast forward to 2017. That strategy has been handed over to interns, VA's, the least invested individuals of our little organizations. Not only between bloggers and publishers but big media organizations too. Engaged talent is better used elsewhere.
Why? Because there is less and less to be gained for publishers on the platform.
Facebook Has Lost It's Addictive Loop
For publishers at least.
Back when I was the only one who would touch our Facebook page, I was able to get real time feedback on content. I would post and I would wait. I was tracking content as it moved amidst the algorithm and the masses. It was important.
We could make adjustments to our content. We could get feedback both from user engagement and the content's ability to gain reach.
Now? I have no reason to constantly refresh. That ridiculous dopamine loop that we all get from the likes and comments has been replaced by APATHY.
Apathy. A state of indifference. The most dangerous emotion for users to feel in a "community" built on engagement and time spent in app.
I'm even over the total frustration I used to feel on Facebook. It's become a utility, a necessary evil, but it's lost it's place as an obsession among most publishers.
But I'll tell you that regular every day Facebook users are feeling apathetic. At least among people I know. People are realizing they don't like the way Facebook makes them feel. That getting off the platform completely is actually IMPROVING their life. Also a dangerous place to be for Facebook.
Don't get me wrong. Facebook's not hurting for users. They have 1.2 billion monthly users. They are the most powerful platform in the world. The holder of all of our data. They can likely tell you more about yourself with their artificial intelligence than you could summarize about yourself.
With every algorithm lockdown they grow richer as we grow more desperate. That is, until we're not desperate anymore.
If there are segments of educated, higher earning, higher spending, individuals leading the way out of Facebook you can expect that it's just the tip of the iceberg. And advertisers will find less and less of what they want in the aftermath.
Facebook is in no danger of dying without us. But there's all ready been a qualitative shift in experience. Based on the trajectory of the last two years, expect it to get worse.
The Enablers Of Click Bait
Speaking of adjusting to the algorithm. Why is there click bait anyway? Where did the fake news come from? The algorithm rewarded it and still does. Whatever you feed grows, and Facebook feeds click bait, memes, and the equivalent of cat videos.
In other words, whatever Facebook lets in the feed grows.
Publishers and bloggers share click bait because it still gets better reach than most things. NO ONE FEELS GOOD ABOUT IT.
I Already Told You What I "Like"
I was in Portland last weekend with two friends. I have a personal Instagram account where I was uploading photos to my Instagram "story". But that story never popped up my friend's story feed (the ones I was actually traveling with).
After checking our settings etc. my exasperated friend (who does not work in social media in any way, shape, or form) said "I ALL READY TOLD INSTAGRAM I WANT TO FOLLOW YOU! WHY DON'T THEY LISTEN!!!"
Many Facebook users feel the exact same thing. Amidst all of these algorithm tweaks and changes in the name of "user experience" (which in Facebook language translates into $$$) I can daily scroll through my feed and see people I DON'T EVEN KNOW. The fact that I've had to start manually pruning my feed might tell Facebook they are getting some things wrong.
I've done more hiding, unfollowing, and unfriending in the last year than ever. All in an effort to simply see what I want in my feed.
Facebook Paid Advertising Is A WASTE For Publishers
Listen, as publishers, if every time we gave Facebook a penny we made two, I'D GIVE THEM ALL OF MY MONEY. But the economics don't work like that. CPM's are too low and frankly, the reach you get from "boosting" a post is still not as good as pre "lockdown" days when the algorithm was organically making posts visible.
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If you're selling mattresses on Facebook you can afford to spend $100 or $300 to flush out a buyer on Facebook. Those economics might work for you. "Boosting" Facebook's algorithm to get your content to break through the feed? That math doesn't work.
When you are a publisher creating content, and PAYING TO REACH THE PEOPLE WHO'VE SIGNED UP TO FOLLOW YOU, ad dollars are never going to "out earn" the spend required to drive traffic through Facebook.
In Case You Needed A Reminder: It's Not About The User
It's about the money. And shouldn't it be? Facebook is a business right? As much as I think they've become a utility, they are a for profit, sell your data and your grandma, entity.
What do they owe us? That's a whole other conversation. We should expect nothing but what Facebook wants.
Facebook wants video. They have a massive preference for video. That doesn't mean users have a massive preference for video.
Consider this: Over the summer, publishers figured out that if they made static images into 30 second videos that they could break through the algorithm. The result? Those same recipes and images that were killing it on Facebook 2.5 years ago busted out and did amazing. It's not the people don't like food and recipes anymore. It's that Facebook would rather show people ridiculous videos packed with a mid-roll ad and a side of angst and controversy to keep you engaged.
Facebook Does Not Engage
With publishers at least. And I'm speaking at a corporate level. Like a Facebook representative level.
Over the years we've hosted social media events packed with hundreds and hundreds of bloggers and have been able to get compelling participation from companies like Twitter and Pinterest. Facebook? Not a snowball's chance.
I've never attended a social media or tech event where someone from Facebook has had a meaningful presence. And if you see a warm body, I've heard nothing of value brought to the table for publishers. When you stick around to hear what kind of golden nuggets they have to impart at their keynote or round table, it's sound bites like "Start a Facebook page" or "Create engaging content".
Gee thanks Facebook. Come to the party please.
There Is NO Customer Service For Publishers
Yep. I called publishers customers. They are spending time and money on the platform. I've heard nightmare stories. Did your page get taken down out of the blue? Been locked out of your account for no apparent reason? Spent lots of money boosting a post into the ether?
Good luck finding anyone to help.
Do We Trust You?
Of course not! Do we trust you when you make everyone disclose paid and sponsored relationships when you launch Facebook Live on the back of undisclosed paid celebrity relationships?
Do we trust you when pages get turned off? When you lock down the algorithm? When you have ZERO transparency? Why should we be expected to?
In the same breath everyone is afraid to quit playing the game. Here's a quote from a blogger that messaged me on Facebook:
"I feel so over FB but at the same time a little afraid not to keep playing their games."
She literally asked to remain anonymous when I asked to quote her because: "I'm scared to anger the Facebook powers that be!"
Nothing says trust like "I'm scared of you but I'm still sticking around."
That sounds more like an after school special about an abusive boyfriend.
Who Cares Anyway? Facebook Should.
So . . . is this a lot of whining? Maybe. But consider this:
What are the best and brightest content creators doing right now? Many of them are leaving Facebook. They aren't turning off their accounts. But their attention, their strategy, and their creative focus is moving elsewhere.
They've been starved out. So where are they turning? To building their own communities. These are high value content creators with a lot to offer. That content that was being offered for free to the masses, their creative energy that was building their online communities, that's all being shifted to building OTHER online communities, it's shifted into things like eBooks, webinars and online courses. Influencers are focusing on product development to drive their audiences to Facebook's biggest competitor -- AMAZON.
What Facebook has effectively done, is sent their greatest talent, and brightest stars FOCUS elsewhere.
As things have gotten worse and worse on Facebook you saw panic and desperation in the blogger and publisher community. Panic spending trying to get through to their audience, tribes forming to help boost and prop up each other's content, the rush to Facebook Live, video, all of us the dancing monkey's of the Facebook algorithm.
The result? That panic has evolved into apathy and lower quality content. And it just seems to be getting worse.
Dear Facebook, publishers are literally looking for any way they can to carve you out of their operating system. They are looking to new platforms, home grown communities, anything that can outperform YOU. You've made that math easy. With growth rates set to less than half a percent and the promise of ZERO organic reach, all they need to do is to figure out where to find that .05% somewhere else in order to replicate your value proposition.
Cat memes anyone?
Post Script (because I can't stop talking)
Hey Facebook, Let's Both Make Money TOGETHER? Mmmkay?
Want to know what would be cool? If you could let publishers thrive so that they can actually make the money you want them to share with you.
The more you lock down organic reach, the less quality publishers can grow, and the less big brands want to work with them. I've heard out of the mouthes of several massive brands that they are deprioritizing Facebook. They don't care about the number of likes on a page. They don't care who the Facebook "influencers" are. There's a lack of engagement across the board and they are focusing elsewhere. In short, for some, Facebook influence has become irrelevant.
So your little handshake icon? The tools you are putting out in hopes of scraping some money off the top of sponsored posts? That will all work much better if we're all making money.
IN THE COMMENTS:
I've taken some of the comments I've received on this post on other platforms and copied them into the comments section. There's been lots of continued discussion and I wanted to make sure those comments could add to the post here.