Where is Facebook going?

Why Big Business Have To Pay Facebook And You Might Too

Facebook had made several recent updates that pose a significant challenge for bloggers and business. EdgeRank makes “engagement and interaction” vitally important and the only other option is to pay. Now there’s a new wrench in the gears with the feed “separation“changes. Let’s take a look at how this affects bloggers and both small and large business and what we can do about it.

Update:The term “EdgeRank” is no longer correct but the principles are the same.

Friday afternoon I was listening to an interesting radio show; NPR’s “Here and Now” with Robin Young addressed Facebook and their promoted posts advertising program.  Robin Young interviewed Nick Bilton, columnist and lead writer for New York Times’ Bit’s Blog about his recent post, Disruptions: As User Interaction on Facebook Drops, Sharing Comes at a Cost. You can listen to the podcast of the interview below but Nick Bilton has 399,000 Facebook followers and has noticed a drastic decline in Facebook likes and shares.

The Social Problem?

Mr. Bilton’s post seems to point to Facebook’s revenue interests for the decline in what were popular posts before Facebook launched their “promoted posts” program. While I don’t doubt for a minute that Facebook’s number one priority is for their shareholders (I’d be disappointed if it weren’t), I do hope there’s more to it than an old fashioned squeeze play (?).

It’s EdgeRank Silly

Back in November I explained that Facebook’s algorithm (EdgeRank) requires interaction for effective exposure; the more interaction from friends and followers, the more exposure. No or little interaction, in the form of likes, shares and comments, results in less exposure.

Now while EdgeRank can pose a challenge to most bloggers and marketers, it is possible to increase exposure and take advantage of the new system. We simply engage with our followers more often, post great content and watch our analytics improve. The trick is encouraging that “act” from your followers because they actually have to DO something to keep seeing your feed.

Pay To Play?

So, what does big business do when interaction is not an option? Hire a team of social media operators to interact on their behalf? Perhaps, but the more likely option is to pay. Facebook holds the cookie and, right now, it’s the best cookie around so they can ask for exorbitant advertising fees for companies that feel the value of the social media platform warrants the expense.

So How Does That Affect You?

You don’t have to be a large corporation to struggle with EdgeRank; you just have to have an established business that’s taking up far too much time for the required “social tasks” to get the most from Facebook. Will you be willing to pay to promote your posts? I imagine that will depend on the profits indirectly generated from the exposure and, sadly, that will be very little for most bloggers.

Now The Bad News

As rough as EdgeRank has been, many social media experts think engagement on Facebook will get even more difficult with the latest update, at least for your Facebook business page. It looks like business (fan) page and Group updates will no longer show in user’s home page feed. Let me say that again, Page and Group posts may no longer show in the main news feed. That’s huge! Your followers will need to click their “following” feed to see what you’re trying to share.

The Takeaway

I’m a firm believer that foresight can make the difference in a booming business and a dismal failure. If your blogging business is long term, build your social empire strong. Have you noticed how the mega blogs seem to have enough momentum even though we see very little interaction from that “guru blogger?” It’s the same with social media.

You see, Facebook EdgeRank requires interaction but it DOES NOT require two way interactions. By that I mean, as long as a large number followers are liking, sharing and commenting on your Facebook posts, you are golden. Facebook sees that as a signal that those users “want” that content and will continue to serve it as long as it’s wanted and available.

Now, as for the separate feeds on Facebook and our pages no longer showing on the main pages? I’m hoping someone has a solution for that. What I’m going to do, in the mean time, is post everything through my personal profile by “sharing” my own Facebook Page updates.

Is Facebook Moving Toward A PAID Only Format For Business?

Start Now!

Can you imagine trying to convince hundreds of thousands of followers to share or like your content? That’s a tall order for sure. That is, of course, if the interaction and engagement wasn’t there from the beginning. The way I see it, the best time to “grow” that engaged audience is before the numbers become unmanageable.

The Contradiction

Now Nick Bilton’s story would seem to contradict what I just detailed above since he said his follower’s engagement dropped from a very high percentage in a very short period of time. This would indicate that either the common understanding of EdgeRank is wrong, or Facebook is trying to force businesses to pay for social media success. Is it possible that once Mr. Bilton’s “inactive” followers no longer were exposed to his updates, there weren’t enough “active” followers to keep the momentum up? I’m sure that his “active” followers don’t engage on every update and after a while those followers will drop off as well. If that’s the case, Facebook want’s personal users and paid businesses and we’re fighting a losing battle.

Your Thoughts

Either we need to work on our following’s engagement or Facebook is moving to a “Pay to Play” system for business. Which do you think it is? Any advice about the latest “separate feed” issues on Facebook? Is Facebook even worth all of this trouble? I’d love to read your thoughts below in the comments.