Facebook: Instrument of Its Own Demise?

You learn a lot about Facebook when you pick up admin rights on a small business page.

Or, at least, I have.  Recently I started helping out on CSzRVA’s page, which has about 1700 “Likes”.

You’d be surprised to find that nothing we post gets to 1700 people, though… or would you?  Perhaps you’ve heard about the growing unrest among page owners that Facebook is cutting off “organic reach”.  That’s the number of people who see a page’s posts in their News Feed — and that is shrinking.

Less than 10% of the people who like a page ever see its content in their News Feed.  Facebook says this is good… and it is.  For them.  Because they’ll sell you access to the rest of your fans for a price.

Here’s the problem — this concept doesn’t scale.

CSzRVA’s page, with 1700 likes, has different needs than WTVR-TV (107,000 likes) or Kroger (820,000 likes).

To treat all three of those pages the same way will, eventually, cause the smaller page owners to give up.  For example, the guy who runs the “This is True” newsletter, Randy Cassingham, recently announced that he’s probably going to walk away from Facebook because it’s pointless for him to post content that 90% (or more) of his fans won’t see.

Facebook can’t afford to lose small pages.  That’s the fabric of the site — along with our friends, we come to Facebook to catch up on our neighborhoods.  Kill off the small neighborhood business and club pages, and Facebook is just another large-scale advertising platform — like the newspaper you stopped reading because it’s all ads and the radio stations you stopped listening to because of the 8-minute ad breaks.

Facebook is chasing big advertiser money.  But if they don’t scale EdgeRank (the system that populates your news feed) to give smaller pages more visibility, they’ll eventually have only the big advertisers.

Nobody thought AOL could fail.

Nobody thought MySpace could fail.

Nobody thought Facebook could fail.

The next Mark Zuckerberg — the person who’ll figure out how to create a social network that is both inclusive to friends and small business while pulling ad dollars out of big business — is out there.  He or she might be in high school right now, but they’re out there.

And Zuckerberg’s quest to extort ad money from every page owner will give that next social media mogul their chance.

AOL died because the Internet moved beyond the walled garden.

MySpace died because the Internet gave up on its awful user experience.

When Facebook dies, I suspect it will be because the Internet got tired of being treated like cattle.  Unless, of course, they figure out that their lifeblood is coming from the very people they’re trying to squeeze for more cash.

Yes, I know Facebook users are the product.  But there’s no guarantee they’ll stay unless you treat them with at least a little grudging respect.  Give the users what they want — not what you think they need.  Or, at least, give us better tools to allow us to decide what we see more of.

In short — if their more-engaged users leave because they’re not getting the content they want, who’s left for the advertisers?  And if the advertisers leave…?

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Author: Rob Hoffmann

Occasional blogger, full-time computer techie, radio producer (basketball, mostly), improv tech guy, generally nice person (if you ask me).

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