The Like and Share Landscape — A Short History of Facebook Pages (and Their Demise)

 

In the heady days of 2006, I remember advising a friend to set up a Facebook page for his bar business. Back then, it was the wild west of social networking. Not many businesses had a Facebook presence. The simple act of uploading and tagging weekly photo albums generated meaningful engagement, and lots of it. Facebook had no restrictions on how frequently your business’s posts would show up, and the only news feed curation was you manually unfollowing people.

 

What’s more, most businesses were signing up as people, restricting their reach to the 5,000 friend limit, and having to manually friend every potential customer. An active Facebook page that posted regularly was pure, unadulterated, free advertising.

Fast forward a few years: Facebook decided you would no longer see content from everyone.

The algorithm took over.

That old friend who emigrated ten years back and posted updates a few times a year? You didn’t engage with them often enough, or they didn’t engage with you. You liked content from other sources more frequently. As far as your news feed was concerned, they no longer existed.

The algorithm said no.

That little shop you liked, and enjoyed seeing updates from? Their posts didn’t gain traction fast enough, or too low a percentage of their followers liked them. Their updates stopped showing on your news feed.

The algorithm said no.

Around the same time, Facebook started aggressively pushing ads. Your last post only got 5 likes out of 1,000 followers? Why not boost it? Geographic and demographic targeting. A marketeer’s wet dream. $5 here, $20 there. Before you know it, you’re spending hundreds of dollars a month promoting content that previously reached your audience for free.

The algorithm was taking bribes.

You could still beat the algorithm, though. You could be creative. Stop talking about the usual humdrum products and services — your customers like 100+ pages doing exactly the same, and they engage with none of them. Start talking competitions — like and share to win. Be even more creative: seize on trends. Do your own versions of viral videos. Free coffee to anyone whose name begins with the letter K. Charity fundraisers.

It worked. Sometimes. You still showed up on news feeds.

Then came the Big News push. Facebook courted publications. Ostensibly to save journalism. Mass linking, liking, and sharing of news articles. 50%+ of your feed suddenly dominated by fake news. Few posts from friends, except to see them exercising a hobby previously reserved for geeks: arguing with strangers on the Internet. Fake news articles and fluff get loads of engagement. Your posts get 5-10 likes. The algorithm said: let them eat fake news. Meanwhile, your business page was sinking further down the ranks.

But you didn’t have to worry: the algorithm could still be bribed.

Fast forward to January 2018. Rocked by accusations of complicity in political manipulation, Facebook does a complete 180: no more pages on the news feed. In fact, good luck finding content from pages at all.

What does that mean for you, the business owner? It means no more free lunch. No effective way to do organic marketing. While Google will at least rank you for good, valuable content, Facebook now won’t rank you at all.

It’s the Goodfellas model of doing business. Facebook is Paulie. Promoting an amazing new deal? Pay me. Recruiting 100 staff, huge for the local economy? Pay me. Raising money for charity? Pay me. Taking in people left homeless by a storm? Pay me. Want anyone to see anything you post? Pay me.

The bottom line: welcome to the new Facebook — get good at bribing the algorithm (by buying ads), or fuggedaboutit.

Obligatory plug: NitroSell is a full service eCommerce company, specialising in web-enabling bricks’n’mortar retailers. We put your existing business online, and provide all the services and support you need to succeed.. including managing your Facebook Ad campaigns.

 

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