Facebook’s Promoted Posts: A Middle Finger to Small Businesses

forever alone

Earlier this month, Facebook announced a new feature that lets users promote their latest status updates to a larger audience. Say you’re celebrating a birthday or wedding. Facebook will place your post higher in the news feed and show it to a bigger audience so that more of your friends and subscribers will actually see it.

The downside? It would cost you about $5.

pay up

If you give us the keys to your house and car, we promise we won’t send those drunken photos of you from last Halloween to your boss!

Facebook actually began rolling out this feature in about 20 countries back in May, and is now making it available in the US. Pages are also eligible to promote posts to their fans as well as long as they have over 400 likes. Bad news for the LonePlacebo Facebook Page.

A lot of criticism has been made about Facebook’s financial performance since it went public earlier this year. Is this a desperate move by the company to meet investor’s demands to turn a profit as soon as possible?

I reckon not. It’s just poor execution yet again on Facebook’s part. The potential of the data Facebook has on its 1 billion users seems like a gold mine, yearning for harvest. Will Facebook ever figure out how to strike gold, without hurting its users?

Facebook Pages got screwed. Or at least mine did.

On the LonePlacebo Facebook page, there is about a paltry 200+ following of users. Pathetic, I know.

Last night, I tweeted that the total number of impressions (# of people who see my posts) had dropped noticeably.

Prior to this month, the page would consistently receive over 100 impressions, which translates to about a 40% reach. Depending on how viral a particular post got from receiving likes/comments, that number could increase by about 50 or so impressions. Sounds good so far.

Things suddenly took a nosedive starting this month, coinciding with the announcement of the dreadful promoted posts. Suddenly, barely 30-40 users would ever see my posts, a drop of around 25%!

Even celebrities are feeling the pain

george takei

Apparently, it’s been affecting some Facebook Pages as early as June! Source

George Takei also noticed this recent change to how many people he would normally reach on Facebook. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he shared his thoughts:

I am still learning how Facebook works and trying hard to keep up with its many changes. And I understand that Facebook has to make money. But what is frustrating is that this offer comes during a time when I saw my general reach (43 million per week) inexplicably dropping by 25% down to 34 million, even as the number of people talking about the page was rising (to now over 2.5 million per week) and the number of fans was growing at around 7,000 per day.

I asked myself, is Facebook doing something to shrink my fan reach, at the same time it is telling me to pay to reach more of them? So yes, it was frustrating to feel pressure to pay to reach fans that we seemed to previously reach for free.

Facebook engineer Phil Zigoris reached out to Takei to clear up some of the “confusion” circulating around.

“We’ve changed NOTHING about the way page posts are delivered to fans,” Zigoris wrote. “The main point of confusion we’ve seen is that pages don’t realize that their posts were never reaching 100% of fans.”

Gee whiz, Phil. I always thought that people’s eyes were glued to Facebook 24/7! My mom told me that my updates were Pulitzer-worthy!

A grim future ahead?

Now, I don’t make much money from blogging, nor is it the reason why I’ve done it for the past 2-3 years. But I know that there are millions of small business owners who don’t have the massive marketing budget of a Fortune 500 company. For them, Facebook might be their only way of reaching their fans. Imagine if your total reach suddenly dropped by 25% and the only way to fix this is if you start paying Facebook each time you post something to your Page.

This move doesn’t feel good at all. I sure hope that this isn’t the first of many poor attempts by the company to try to force users to pay for something that is such a core element of the user experience.