Why Facebook is walking a paid v. organic tightrope

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What many social and digital marketers will know, is that Facebook have been making some serious algorithm changes which will quite seriously affect how users interact with brands and exactly how that relationship works. One of the specific changes in recent weeks, is the auto-playing video ads on mobile newsfeeds. Ultimately, Facebook wants more tailored and more relevant content for its users, helping it to challenge its great rival, Google. Mostly, in the interim, however, it wants companies to pay more to be seen.

 

This is a particular problem which leaves Facebook between a rock and a hard place. Users need more relevant content to engage with a site, content is more than, and should be more than the number of likes a post can receive. To prioritise content like this, means that the same posts from the same pages will constantly show to the user, this adds little or no value to the page, or the like – making engagement meaningless. Brands however are spread across a wide range of activities, many rely on memes and ‘light’ content to survive and to engage with their fans. While Edgerank tries to remedy this, it still means more money needs to be pumped into a page.

 

So while on one hand you have users show the beginnings of Facebook fatigue, for want of stronger, more relevant content, on the other hand you now have brands who suddenly need to pay more to be seen. While this does force brands to become more relevant and enforces some kind of content optimisation, the problem is that Facebook offers no ‘organic’ alternative, in the same way to Google. There’s no guarantee that good and optimised content will go to the top, and even if it does, it’s finite. Google organic search means that a page can remain at the top for quite some time, based on the relevancy of its content.

 

While as a marketer, it makes my job more difficult, requiring me to dig down much more into my analytics to make sure that content is constantly relevant, and reduces the ability and latitude to post in a more ad hoc manner for engagement, as a user, it ultimately benefits. The harsh reality is, that while many brands are funny and do rely on engagement on short posts or ‘memes’ there’s a badly needed exercise within Facebook to clean up the newsfeed. Google might be the big competition in Facebook’s mind, but increasingly younger users are going to other platforms, like Twitter and Kik to find answers and network. These are not spaces where relevant content is more rewarded, but places where it doesn’t always matter so much.


While brands and agencies might not like it (the idea of asking for more money is never nice), Facebook is changing its algorithm to stay as relevant as possible in a market increasingly moving towards a more contextual and content oriented search method. Users when loading Siri or Google Now, expect content to be relevant, they expect that the first page or the answers these apps come up with to be exactly what they wanted and have content that relates to this. In order for Facebook to stay competitive in this space, it has to make brands think about what they say and better understand who their users are.

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