BitDepth#923 - February 11

Facebook's new post distribution algorithm creates problems for publishers and marketers. Nicole Phillip Greene of offers some solutions and approaches to handling the issue.
Facebook follies
Nicole Phillip Greene of talks to entrepreneurs and photographers about Facebook’s changes and alternative options at Antony Scully’s Studio 30 in Woodbrook last week. Photograph by Mark Lyndersay.

Mark Zuckerberg’s social networking website has been in the news quite a bit recently, and most of it is for all the wrong reasons.
Facebook is losing its teenage audience. Facebook will lose 80 percent of its membership by the end of the decade. No, wait, Facebook isn’t losing its teen audience.

Amid all this fuss about popularity lost and found is a very real shift in the way that Facebook shares your posts to its pages and the profound effect it’s having on people who have trusted the company to bring their messages to potential customers.

Here’s what Facebook has done in simple terms. The service is placing more emphasis on posts that link to material outside the site and reducing the pervasiveness of posts that don’t.
The company also has a often referenced aversion to sites that specialise in posts designed to be viral, such as Buzzfeed and Viralnova, so expect links to those sites to be deprecated as well.

It wouldn’t surprise me to discover in the coming months that posts with click bait wording, such as “You won’t believe what she did…” which are normally associated with attempts to make an image or video viral also get tamped down on the service.

It isn’t all bad news. Facebook is also turning up the volume on posts that get genuine attention from users, and turning that reaction into more prominent placement in more of the feeds of your friends.
But wait, you may ask. Doesn’t everyone see everything that I post?

With close to five billion items shared daily (
more stats on FB here), quite a bit gets lost in the stream of data that flows into every user’s news feed and if you post from a business page, the company has become quite stingy about sharing what you post.

Facebook, in short, wants you to pay to have its users see your message. In fact, a company representative said so point blank: “the best way to get your stuff seen if you're a business is to pay for it.”
This is unlikely to be a problem for the major brands already infiltrating the site on multiple fronts, using ads and promotions to draw attention to their messages.

It is, however, going to suck rather mightily for the millions of small businesses who have come to rely on the magic bullet that Facebook offered them to reach their customers for years.

In a carefully reasoned consideration of the situation, local entrepreneur
Nicole Phillip Greene looked at the situation and analysed the alternatives that she's considered for her own content driven website.

Greene is already making more use of Google Plus, which she has found better suited to her role as an original content creator and in creating a community around it.
I’ve done exactly two paid post promotions on Facebook, one of an image of Westmall at Christmas that seemed right for a little push in December and another of a young jab jab that made sense for the pre-Carnival mood of January.

The results were wildly different, though I must also acknowledge that the two images were as well. The very commercial and sparkling Christmas themed image did very well with a small investment, but the documentary image and its moodier story link barely registered with a spend that was four times as large.

In many ways, Facebook is a stream of very specific curiosities and inclinations and when you go with that flow, you can have quite a bit of success with a small investment but more money doesn’t seem to buy you any real attention if you're running against the tide of interest.

Nicole Phillip Greene’s conclusion is the same one that I’ve advocated in this space for years and sensible social media marketers have been whispering in their client’s ears to no real effect.
The only good sales pitch is the one you make from a soapbox that you own.

Build or revamp your self-hosted website and flow real content into it that’s capable of engaging the attention of your audience, then use appropriate social media channels, of which Facebook is one, to draw the attention of potential customers.

It’s a simple system, but one that requires more work than dumping link bait into Facebook and a real commitment to an online presence. If you don’t want to spend your money doing things the hard way, Facebook is gearing up to make you pay anyway.
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