Facebook’s Sharp Stick In The Eye

As of the end of 2011, there were 37 million¬†Facebook pages (aka “fan pages”) for which 10 or more people have clicked the “Like” button. They range from major brands like Pepsi to creators of witty word graphics to indie musicians. Almost everyone knows that Facebook profits greatly from the use of the personal information of its users…but now, they have a new profit center to target: owners of Facebook pages with more than 400 fans.

As the owner of several FB pages in service of a number of my web sites, I spent a lot of time building up the fan bases over the past couple years…including spending money on Facebook ads…to get the word out to those who might be interested. As a fairly heavy Facebook user myself, I felt it made a lot of sense to connect with people as part of their daily FB activity to let them know of new postings on my sites which they might find of interest.

My 3 most active FB pages have 650, 2100 and 7100 fans respectively. To be clear, none of these involve sales of products…rather, they notify particular niche audiences about free music, stories, coloring pages and music videos, which (obviously) many people have found valuable enough to express interest.

I also have a number of friends (music artists, mostly) who started out with standard Facebook accounts…hit the 5K-friend hard cap…and were forced to try to get their fans to switch over to FB pages. These pages are, by nature, less appropriate for interaction with fans…and most of the migration efforts were marginally successful, at best. And then, FB came along and told them they really should have just had people *subscribe* to them anyway. Talk about mixed messages!

So, back to the point: After this investment of time and money to maintain and grow these pages, I am now informed (initially by a blog post from Shane Eubanks) that only a small percentage of those who thought enough of my pages to press Like ever see the posts I make on their behalf.

What percentage? Hard to say definitively…due to a bug in in the Facebook interface at the moment, I can only check one of them. But on that one page, my posts this week ranged between 1% and 7% of my 2000+ subscribers. In other words…almost no one.

As an average FB user, I have always resented being told that Facebook knows better than I do what I want to see of my friends’ activity. But, that’s a minor irritation compared to them blocking my subscribers/fans from seeing what I posted based upon their declared interest! I respect Facebook’s need to make a profit, but I consider this move on their part awkward, ill-considered and utterly unjustifiable. And yet…they do try to justify it.

First off, things *have changed about how your posts are shared. They are barely shared at all. Just because the sharing mechanism remains the same hardly excuses such a statement. And, they also don’t say that most people have a limited view of activity because Facebook controls it instead of allowing you to do so. And it’s a flat-out fabrication to say that “many of the people connected to your Page may still see it”. Not when only 5% of the subscribers ever have the chance!

So, Facebook sees a potential goldmine here. And…how do they choose to implement it? By charging page owners for every single post they make on their page (assuming that the owner wants their subscribers to actually see the post)!

I can understand Facebook seeing page owners as a potential profit center. And a small monthly or yearly charge might be reasonable for many/most active page owners, considering the potential value of connecting with an interested subscriber base.

How will fan page owners react?

  • Will they be satisfied with only reaching 5% of their subscribers for free?
  • Will they pay $5 per post (or whatever Facebook demands at any given time) to reach up to 70%-80% instead?
  • Will they shut down the pages entirely…and attempt to drive fans back to their web sites or email subscriptions, where everyone at least has the *chance* to see everything in which they’ve expressed interest (also, thereby depriving FB of the opportunity to show display and profit from their own ads)?

Or is it possible that, as word of this gets out, that the backlash from page owners will force Facebook to relent and offer a more reasoned approach?

By the way, I’d LOVE to find out that I’m wrong about this…either Facebook’s actions or my interpretation thereof. But as of now…the evidence seems fairly clear: Page owners are screwed.
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1 Comment

  1. Catherine Rannebarger Hufnagle

    Facebook is a virus. Think big brother.