• 10/04/2012
    7:51 AM
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Facebook's Promoted Posts For Individuals: A Bad Idea

Are you willing to pay to have your Facebook posts read by more people?
5 Social Networks Hot On Facebook's Heels
5 Social Networks Hot On Facebook's Heels
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Facebook has said it would never charge for its use, but the social networking giant seems to be getting around that statement with its new "promoted posts" feature.

Say you want to announce something--like an engagement or a promotion or a new home. You can update your Facebook status, and your friends will see it in their news feed. Maybe. As Facebook notes on its Help pages, "A lot of activity happens on Facebook and most people only see some of it in their news feeds. They may miss things when they're not on Facebook, or they may have a lot of friends and Pages, which results in too much activity to show all of it in their news feed."

So what is a proud fiance or employee or new home owner to do? Now, you can ensure that your Facebook friends will see your post by promoting them. Facebook notes that by promoting a post you are increasing its potential to reach more people and for more people to interact with it (to like it, share it, comment on it, and so on). So, in essence, you are paying to advertise yourself, just as companies now pay Facebook to advertise their products and services, both with sidebar ads and the newer "sponsored stories" from their brand pages. Facebook has cited these sponsored stories for brands as a new revenue source and a way of reaching mobile users.

That's a separate product from this offering for consumers.

"As part of a test starting today, people in the U.S. can promote personal posts to their friends on Facebook," said Abhishek Doshi in an Oct. 3 Facebook blog post. "The test started first in New Zealand in May and gradually rolled out to people in more than 20 countries. It will now appear to people in the U.S."

Once Facebook rolls out the promoted posts feature to you, you can promote a page post using the sharing tool. Any post created after June 21, 2012, can be promoted. According to Facebook, users set a lifetime budget for promoted posts, based on how many people they want to reach. It also appears that you have some choice of audience: "people who like your page" or "people who like your page and their friends." Promoted posts appear in the news feed and are labeled "sponsored." Users are billed "to the primary funding source you've designated in your Ads Manager," according to Facebook.

So, what to make of all this ...

I have noted that my Facebook experience has changed dramatically in the last year. The feedback I get on posts has decreased dramatically, and I see the same people's posts again and again. Don't I have more Facebook friends than that? Did I do or say something to make people angry? Are my posts so boring that they are not worth commenting on?

[ Meanwhile, in court ... Judge Denies $20 Million Facebook Sponsored Stories Settlement. ]

All of the above could be true, but I--and you--are more likely experiencing the effects of EdgeRank, Facebook's algorithm for controlling visibility on the site. Just as companies have learned to optimize their Web content for Google visibility, so too are many optimizing their Facebook news feeds to increase their EdgeRank.

Companies can't afford not to spend time and energy figuring out how to increase their EdgeRank, but the average user likely doesn't even know that such a thing exists. Most users probably also don't know that Facebook defaults to showing "top stories" in their news feeds, and not posts as they appear chronologically. (You can see posts in order of how they were posted by clicking on "Most Recent" from the Sort drop-down menu at the upper right of your news feed.)

The idea of promoted posts might be appealing to users who want to make sure that all of their Facebook friends see a certain update but are worried that for some reason--they're not quite sure why--that doesn't always happen when they update their status. And, $7 or so (the figure being bandied about most widely as the ultimate cost for promoted posts) probably seems reasonable. You'd pay at least that much in postage if you decided to mail engagement announcements instead of posting the news on Facebook.

Likewise, promoted posts will give small businesses (heck, any businesses) another way to get themselves and their services noticed. The can certainly buy Facebook ads now, but promoted posts seem like a different, less in-your-face animal: They appear in users' news feeds, rather than in the right-hand column of the page (home to all of those ads most users probably ignore.)

But, with all of this said, promoted posts seem to go against the spirit of social networking. If I were a paranoid person, I might also think that Facebook had purposely made it difficult for people to get their updates seen so that they might pay for the ability to do so--or, at the very least, that Facebook was making hay out existing user frustration.

The "feature" also seems like a cheap, and not very thoughtfully designed or planned, way for Facebook to make a few bucks. As a public company, it has to come up with new ways to increase revenue, but this particular venture seems bad for Facebook and bad for Facebook users.

Would you ever pay to promote a Facebook update? Is there something of value here I am not seeing? We welcome your comments below.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

Social media make the customer more powerful than ever. Here's how to listen and react. Also in the new, all-digital The Customer Really Comes First issue of The BrainYard: The right tools can help smooth over the rough edges in your social business architecture. (Free registration required.)


re: Facebook's Promoted Posts For Individuals: A Bad Idea

Couldn't agree more. Promoting individual posts is likely to annoy friends and get you unfriended. It a corporate tool masquerading as a consumer feature.

re: Facebook's Promoted Posts For Individuals: A Bad Idea

I want Facebook to facilitate conversations between me and my friends, not to decide which of my friends are worthwhile conversing with. Awhile back, I needed to adjust a setting so that I wasn't just seeing posts from 100 friends, but from all of my friends. If there is a comparable setting now, that enables me to get more control over my own NewsFeed, I'd like to use it.

re: Facebook's Promoted Posts For Individuals: A Bad Idea

That's one of my issues--the settings are really hard to find, and I think most people don't even know their feeds are being manipulated in the first place.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard

re: Facebook's Promoted Posts For Individuals: A Bad Idea

Is it so different from we see in other media? In some ways, this strikes me as being the equivalent of newspaper classified advertising, a relatively low-dollar option for promotion for individuals or small businesses, as opposed to brands.

What bothers me more is the suspicion that Facebook is gaming the system, making it hard to achieve a good organic reach for posts in order to increase the desirability of buying your way to a high ranking. This is the tradeoff of letting your social community be captured inside a walled garden with a corporate owner.

re: Facebook's Promoted Posts For Individuals: A Bad Idea

For what it's worth, EdgeRank can be easily gamed to provide you with a wider variety of updates from a wider variety of users and to make your posts more prominent. It's a horribly flawed algorithm, which is why some users with 500 friends have reported only seeing updates from a half dozen people, but it's what we have to contend with for now.

Anywho, I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this article. In response to the question at the beginning, no, I would not be willing to pay or people to read my updates. I don't need to either - there's always G+ and that serves my needs. But I am interested to see who does pay for their content updates to be displayed and how big an impact this will have on how and why people friend each other. I'm willing to bet that there'll be an option to ignore paid updates from specified users, just as there is for FB ads.

The one exception I really see is with events. Honestly, I hate how people use the events feature and would really like to see FB start charging for it so that people will be discouraged for misusing it.

re: Facebook's Promoted Posts For Individuals: A Bad Idea

Facebook is already annoying enough without multiplying the problem! I was curious when the "promote this" button showed up, and when I saw that it was $7 to amplify your voice ... I realized that this could be a great way to ID the egomaniacs in my circle (which is admittedly pretty large). That's the only benefit I see, and it's one that *I* don't have to pay the $7 for =)

If you want to promote something on FB, promote it - but don't make it your status posts. Make it your event, your company page, your mission, your cause. Keep it real. Although you're making it easy for me (and others) to mute you - and you're paying $7per for the privilege.

re: Facebook's Promoted Posts For Individuals: A Bad Idea

What's Facebook?

re: Facebook's Promoted Posts For Individuals: A Bad Idea

Facebook is touting it's 1 Billionth account. What would be more interesting is, how may of the accounts are really active users. I know a number of users, even late teens to early twenty somethings who have report that they have dramatically scaled back their Facebook activty - not a statistic that Facebook would be anxious to publicize. Not sure what, if anything, is taking the place of the activity that was exclusive to Facebook but I sense the social media landscape is changing. That said, from a business standpoint I completely understand the pressure on Facebook as a publicly traded company to find away to monetize social interaction. However, my relationships are not "for sale" , I'm not running a business that requires me "sell" myself, and I don't place a $ value on my personal "social network" - pun intended!.

re: Facebook's Promoted Posts For Individuals: A Bad Idea

The Facebook statistic is actually 1 billion active users - defined as people who sign on at least once a month. So they're not actually counting all the people who signed up and immediately forgot their password, never to return, or those who became annoyed with some aspect of Facebook and stopped using it.

re: Facebook's Promoted Posts For Individuals: A Bad Idea

See also our related story on how brands are discovering that their organic reach -- the number of people they can reach by providing interesting, engaging content -- is declining as Facebook tweaks its EdgeRank formula. Naturally, people are asking how much this is tied to the desire to convince companies that they ought to pay to amplify their reach through sponsored stories.

The article is here:

re: Facebook's Promoted Posts For Individuals: A Bad Idea

Many good points. As an observation, it seems to me that as the number of companies leverage Facebook to peddle their goods to their "fans" (Facebook users) and as the frequency of this activity increases, the less interesting Facebook becomes to those users. I think Facebook has reached its apex. Their most important (for growth) demographic (teenagers and young adults) still use it, but use it less, in favor of Twitter and texting... Why? Because Twitter is perceived to be more private (true in a sense), while texting is very private...