Facebook announced this past Wednesday that they were testing a new feature in the U.S. called ‘Promoted Posts”. Apparently, they have been running this test in New Zealand since May. Below, is a quote from their announcement:
Every day, news feed delivers your posts to your friends. Sometimes a particular friend might not notice your post, especially if a lot of their friends have been posting recently and your story isn’t near the top of their feed.
That being said, what Facebook is proposing with these “promoted posts” is to allow you to pay a dollar amount to have your posts get noticed by more of your friends. Below, you can see an example of a promoted post on Facebook’s newsroom article. In this instance, a couple wanted to make sure everyone knew about their recent engagement. By clicking the “promote” button, they were given the option to pay a little extra to reach a wider audience of friends. When you do this, your Facebook post will have the words “sponsored” at the bottom of it. You also have the ability to check how much extra reach the paid ad is giving you as opposed to just regular newsfeed views.
Pictured below, you can see the options that are available to you when you hit the promote button. Notice the price. For $7 you can make sure your friends know about that big party you’re having, or big charity fundraiser. So I have to ask the question, “How much are you willing to pay to get your friend’s attention on Facebook?”
Has Facebook Jumped the Shark?
For those of you who may not be familiar with the term “jumping the shark”, it stems from an episode of the American hit TV show Happy Days, where the show’s main character, the Fonz, jumped over a confined shark tank on water skis. Since that time the term has been used in the entertainment industry to note the point where a TV series uses a gimmick that blatantly shows desperation and an almost certain soon-to-be demise for that show. Ever since Facebook went public, it seems like they have used every gimmick in the book to try to force revenue out of its users. In my humble opinion, things like this come across as acts of desperation and I believe are really unnecessary for Facebook to do.
I will not go so far as to say that Facebook has jumped the shark. One reason I say this is because of their recent announcement that they have reached the 1 billion monthly active user base. However, I will say that Facebook needs to get out of desperation mode and reach out for some better leadership at the top. One of the things I hate about companies that go public is that they so often they forget who got them where they are and who will take them where they want to go. There is no doubt in my mind that this newest offering will generate some money for Facebook, but seriously, isn’t $7 a little steep for a personal post? I personally loved a statement one of my friends posted about this new feature, which I believe says it all: (I will keep him anonymous to protect his identity)
Great feature. Thrilled to pay money to tell people what I had for lunch (bologna sandwich). [dripping with sarcasm] :)
I believe that statement not only drips with sarcasm, it drips with a lot of truth. Facebook better learn to listen to its user base. Business 101 says come up with a product that people want at a price the market can bear. $7 is an awful high price for something that used to work for free!
Know Your Users
Mr. Zuckerberg, you came up with a fantastic idea and history says it was almost an accident of being in the right place at the right time with the right idea. People really do want to connect. Personally, I believe that I am a product of every encounter with every friend, family member, and acquaintance I have ever known. That is why I have so many “friends” on Facebook. Not that I am extremely close to every one of them, but they have all left some mark on the pages of my life’s book. For me, Facebook is all about people. So I make this plea to the decision makers at Facebook, get to know your people. Make an attempt to connect with this giant user base you have at your disposal and figure out a way to make some money without marginalizing them. Consider the Timeline fiasco. Personally, I like the Timeline feature of Facebook, but the way Facebook implemented this new feature was asinine. To this day, I still hear people complaining about the Timeline feature. Why? I believe it was because they felt slighted. Here they had to relearn how to use this chronological mess where everything looked different and not to forget the privacy issues that were exposed by the little live feed on the right side of the screen. In a business that was created on connecting people, Facebook seems completely incapable or unwilling to do the same.
Heart and Soul
Please don’t get me wrong, I know that Facebook is under tremendous pressure to make money. This is the curse of going public. To Zuckerberg I have to say do whatever you have to do to repel the pressure you’re getting to allow your company to continue to make poor decisions for its users. If that means get a new bank, then get a new bank. If that means getting rid of those at the top and cleaning house, then do it. Facebook should be a friendly and safe place to be. Whether Zuckerberg, or whoever is driving this mess, likes it or not, people are going to resist and resent being made to pay for things that used to work great for free. For instance, before the timeline, I seldom missed any posts from my friends and I had over a thousand even then. After timeline, I find their posts get hidden constantly. If I am not sitting their staring at the live feed all day, I am bound to miss some really interesting stuff. I will give another example. Our business page used to have a reach of about 800 people for every post we put out. After Facebook rolled out promoted posts for business, that number is barely reaching 200. This all happened in a matter of a month. You can not tell me that Facebook is not somehow rigging the system to slow down our reach to our subscribers. This comes across as dirty business Facebook! Facebook, you were the one who offered this stuff for free to begin with, so don’t be surprised when your users feel like they have been baited into your trap. A lot of people have worked very hard to develop content for the Facebook business pages and now you’re dropping a bomb on them because you can’t figure out how to make money off a 1 billion people user base! But not to get to far off subject, we are talking about personal promotions here. Well, as a personal user, I used to be able to post something and feel relatively confident that my Facebook friends would see it. I don’t have that confidence anymore. The heart and soul of Facebook is changing and I am telling you Facebook, your short term gains will eventually be your demise if you don’t start making Facebook a user centered place like it used to be.
So to my readers, I would love to hear your feedback. Am I being too rough on Facebook? Is promoted posts something you would use? If so, how much would you consider to be a fair price? Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment in the comment box below.