In mid-November, Facebook announced it would be "reducing overly promotional page posts in news feeds" starting in January. This seems to be just another step toward removing brands from the world's largest social network and / or forcing them to buy more advertising. Facebook's 20% content rule has already made it nearly impossible to boost a post or place an ad (Facebook Advertising Guidelines, Section D). My image with the words "Happy Thanksgiving" was rejected when I tried to boost that post last week. Ridiculous! Now, an arbitrary determination is going to be made by someone who thinks a brand's post is "overly promotional."
In 2013, Facebook Encouraged Brands to Promote.
Remember back in August, 2013 when Facebook updated its Page Terms and announced "It's now Easier to Administer Promotions on Facebook." In this announcement Facebook told us "We've removed the requirement that promotions on Facebook only be administered through apps. Now, promotions may be administered on Page Timelines." Back in 2013 Facebook is encouraging brands to do promotions in their Timelines saying, "We hope these updates will enable more businesses to use Facebook to launch their promotions."
In 2015, Brands Are Told Not to Promote.
Almost 18 months later, the rules are changing again and Facebook will be "reducing overly promotional posts in news feeds." I suppose they are not really saying to brands, "Don't do your promotions in your Page Timelines." They're just saying that when you do, we're going to prevent it from appearing in the consumer's News Feed. Isn't that the whole point of running a promotion? If a brand's promotion isn't going to appear in the consumer's News Feed, what's the point of running the promotion? Better yet, what's the point of paying money to boost the promotion or purchase an ad if consumers aren't going to see it anyway?
Just Keeping the Customer Happy
Facebook tells us the main reason people come to Facebook is to see what's happening in their News Feeds, and Facebook has always tried to show people the things they want to see. To further this goal, Facebook conducted a survey and asked hundreds of thousands of people how they feel about the content in their News Feeds. People told Facebook "they wanted to see more stories from friends and Pages they cared about, and less promotional content." Facebook dug deeper and discovered people felt a lot of the content coming from brands in their posts was too promotional. This content was better suited for Facebook ads. News Feeds already have controls for the number of ads a person sees and for the quality of those ads. Now Facebook is adding controls for promotional posts, "so people see more of what they want from Pages." Based on the survey, posts will be deemed too promotional if they meet any of this criteria:
- Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app.
- Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context.
- Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads.
Here are two examples of overly promotional posts:
Facebook's move may be compared to Google's quality score. For some time now, Google has used a ratings system to weed out ads it deems inappropriate for one reason or another. Bing does something similar. Google says that ads are reviewed for relevance and truthfulness. They also review the landing page. Clearly, Facebook has been reviewing ads for years too. Now it intends to do the same with the promotional posts it encouraged brands to make in their Timelines back in 2013. These kinds of posts have become very important to brands in the last 18 months. They are a part of a brand's marketing plan and budgets are allocated to these organic posts. It made sense. If a consumer voluntarily Liked a brand's page, the brand assumed they could communicate freely with that consumer. If the consumer didn't like the content they received from the brand they were free to Unlike the Page at any time.
Just Write Engaging Organic Content.
No question Facebook has been encouraging brands to write more engaging organic content. But this new rule is really telling brands they have to buy more ads if they want to get their message seen by consumers. Brands have already seen a huge decrease in consumers seeing their organic posts. Their reach was nearly halved (49%) from October 2013 to February 2014 according to one study. This change will not increase the number of ads people see in their News Feed. Facebook says, "The idea is to increase the relevance and quality of the overall stories - including Page posts - people see in their News Feeds." What this is really all about, from Facebook's perspective, is improving the user's experience.
Facebook Pages Still Matter.
Recognizing this change was going to cause brands to question their current strategies and the Facebook Page's role, Facebook made a statement to appease these brands. Facebook said,
Pages still matter - a lot. They offer a free, easy-to-maintain- online presence for people to discover and learn about a business. They work across desktop, mobile and tablets without requiring any extra configuration, and contain complete information about a business. They also offer tools to create videos, photos and events that bring a business' story to life.
Facebook says nearly a billion people visited Facebook Pages in October. They encourage businesses to think of their Facebook Page as a "cornerstone of their online identity, not simply as a publishing service." It also said it was increasing its investment in Pages and had plans to add new functionality and features to Pages.
No doubt they intend to do this with the increased advertising dollars brands will now have to pay as a result of these new rules.