In a move evocative of the grand Hollywood depiction of organized crime, it seems Facebook is trying to monetize Pages and Groups. Or is the resemblence just a coincidence?
The blogosphere has been buzzing for a while now, the force and ferocity of the conversation is gaining momentum. Many wondering if Facebook is stealing a play from an organized crime movie script to squeeze individuals, organizations and brands currently using Facebook to grow their online communities. Is it social media extortion, or just good business?
Like a drug dealer controlling the availability of a highly addictive drug, Facebook has been slowly squeezing pages and groups, shifting the algorithmic results of user news feeds toward promoted content and games, over the user choice of groups, pages and friends.
Let's all sing Kumbaya together shall we?
Appearing altruistic and community focused, Facebook has been quick to make frequent adjustments in the results displayed to the user community as a whole. Facebook has answered any protests with the assertion that the goal is to return a more organic and desirable result to the end user.
The purported goal is to increase individual interaction, allowing people to reconnect with their friends who Facebook has determined are “important” to the user.
And the Survey says… Buzz
Anyone focused on watching trends, patterns and shifts in the social media world, will likely share the opinion that the changes Facebook has been making are quite different from those they publically claim to be the reason and motivation.
Facebook appears to be making a strategically, and calculated, focused squeeze play, forcing groups and pages to pay for the exposure that they have become accustomed, if not addicted, to.
The pay-to-play method is a logical growth of a platform focused on finding ways to increase revenue, thereby proving value and worth of services to the investors and board of directors.
This leaves the Facebook user with little option if they wish to continue status-quo and sustain their current level of exposure and engagement with the users of the platform.
This means that boosting, and sponsoring posts isn't a option, it's a requirement. No organic reach means the only reach will be promoted or inorganic. That doesn't sit well with many social media pros who feel it "taints" the reputation of a company. That's a rather sheltered view of the reality of what social business is about in 2014.
Business 101: Make a Profit
People are up in arms, users protesting the changes to their newsfeed, complaining and whining. It is human nature to view things solely from the needs of the individual rather than the benefit to the whole.
When situations like this occur people need to realize that business evolves, and to do so requires adjustment and therefore adaption of those relying upon the business. Bemoaning Facebooks right to be a profitable business merely demonstrates an individuals lack of understanding of the intrinsic requirements of a functioning economy.
The enlightened view is to admire Facebook's move as a beautiful example of a combination of proactive and reactive strategic moves and realignments of their business model. Simply evolving as necessary to continue to exist, improve services and offerings and hopefully result in a thriving bottom line.
A business is not a charity, if the community sees the value then they will be willing to pay the price to continue to have their own business benefit from the success of Facebook. It's a symbiotic relationship. Admiration, not contempt should be the mindset.
Have we become too reliant upon Facebook?
It is a valid question to ask, but is it too late to consider it? Not for Facebook. Creating a culture of reliance upon their gratis offerings, Facebook has long been the “enabler”.
People build, attract and grow communities within the Facebook network, all the while each new user, group, interaction helps in the data mining and focus of the Facebook marketing machine.
A very powerful, effective and admirable machine at that. A near textbook example of data-mining done right and monetization of that information, especially through availability to it's community of advertisers, is likely the most powerful and effective targeted marketing available for your dollar today.
There is a high cost to aggregate that kind of data, and consistently update it. From data centers, to the energy that runs them, to the people that maintain and care for them, Facebook has high costs to offer us all such powerful tools. The focus of the user community has long been on how to best "game" the Facebook system, garnering the most reach for little to no cost.
Shouldn't we all be admiring Facebook's success in finding out how to monetize what they have long given away for free? People need to stop bemoaning the company the right to succeed and profit, instead they should admire the savvy and acumen of the triumph.
Haven't we all learned from MySpace how it can end so badly?
It’s not personal, it’s business. Goldilocks can teach you something.
It's time to stop taking things so personally. Over reaction is a common problem in social networking and all types of online interactions. People seek drama, and follow the crowd mentality rather than being original thinkers.
Facebook should be admired and appreciated for the change and innovation they brought about, and as they continue to test new features and services the entire tech industry benefits from the examples of both successes and failures that are the results.
The continued dynamic improvements and evolution prove that Facebook is still evolving the platform, discovering it's best monetization model, and utilizing the market dominance they have built to continue to provide services many have become reliant upon and powerful data used in many positive ways.
It’s a choice every Facebook user makes when they build a personal or brand presence there. Facebook owns the platform, and the terms of service are clear, anything you do there, post there, share there, they own it. This isn't a state secret, it is in fact a basic tenant of social media and development of your digital brand, personal or business.
Why we continue.
"There are no other options" is what many would have you believe, that isn't the case at all. There are always choices, viable alternatives to the services Facebook offers, but do they have the same reach and power of the data? Perhaps not, or maybe more so.
Don't forget not every internet user is a Facebook user. The human tendency toward complacency, as well as the resistance to change, keeps many paralyzed - stagnant in their current situation.
When you focus on research, fact finding and commit to budget resources you may discover that your prior focus and planning have actually led you down the incorrect path. If the entire purpose of being on a platform like Facebook is to reach your customer, are you forgetting that every internet user is not necessarily a Facebook user.
If you analyze your use and purpose, did you lose sight of your goal to attract customer and bring them back to your own website? Did you fail when you established this level of dependence upon a platform you don't own or control?
Pick an Option
At this point you really have one of two options, pay for the exposure you became reliant upon. Then be prepared for the possibility that the costs you will be incurring may rise, slowly at first then perhaps rapidly. It's a simple matter of supply and demand.
The second option, and a better choice if you don't have a budget to work with, prepare to pull the ripcord on your parachute. Before you do, be sure to figuratively pack your parachute, very strategically and carefully. If not, you risk being a part of the looming Facebook Zombie apocalypse, that is where this greatly overhyped "zombie apocalypse" may really be happening.
To help you avoid becoming a Facebook Zombie, the following list of things to do to prepare your Zombie proof shelter are offered:
Once you have the plan organized and ready for deployment, pull the ripcord and make the big jump. It will be terrifying at first, but a more terrifying possibility is seeing all the time and money you have, or will invest in your Facebook presence go to waste if you lose control of your page or group?
Becoming just another Facebook Zombie staring back at the world, unnoticed and unchanged for eternity. The decision is yours, weigh the options carefully and spend time reviewing the choices before you take any action.
If you are among the lucky few that invested wisely in a good social media consultant who built a great strategy, then you have had success because your community has found its way back to your website. In your case it might be good to test the targeted Facebook advertising, at this moment your results will be impressive because of the pushback and resistance to pay to play.
There's always another side to the coin isn't there?