October 25, 2012 by Julia
I was literally thinking about how Facebook had stopped showing me my friends’ posts (or if it did deign to show me, they were out of order and days old) when I saw, completely by chance, this great article about Facebook’s new “promote” option.
The first thing I thought of, being me, is that Facebook is about to get a lesson in capitalism. Businesses will invest in technology and advertising if what they get out of it is more than they paid–i.e. they’ll pay $10 to promote a link if it will yield, say, $100 in sales (to keep the numbers simple). Now, Facebook would lose some goodwill, because that same $100 in sales would have been free a few months ago, but $10 is not entirely unreasonable unless, like the article pointed out, you’re a business like a newspaper, which exists for the explicit purpose of posting links to news stories.
If you need to pay $200 to get that same $100, though, the numbers don’t add up–and that’s where Facebook is about to get screwed. Competition is good for consumers, we all know it. Advertising is consumed, like any other good or service, but the “consumers” are the businesses using the services. The fact is, Facebook has competitors. Look how many businesses mentioned using Google+ (which, for the record, I can’t stand) and Twitter instead of Facebook, for instance. If one of them, or another site like LinkedIn or even Reddit, can come up with something to package as an express answer to Facebook’s ill-priced scheme, it will come out way ahead.
It is clear that Facebook was trying to use the same kind of idea that lead to Twitter’s “Promoted” tweets, but they did it wrong. Twitter promotes a tweet to people in addition to the actual followers of the promoter, or to specific subsets of followers and non-followers. Unless there is something I’m missing, a regular tweet is still seen by all company’s followers, regardless of whether it has been promoted. Those followers signed up because they WANT to see the messages! It does a disservice to them (by taking away a service they were previously receiving) to hide messages from all but 15% of the fans. For instance, I didn’t see that the Runaway Slave Facebook page linked to my article yesterday until this morning when it finally showed up in my feed!
When ideas fail in the marketplace, they need to be ended, quickly (a la Netflix), or risk the entire business taking a hit. You can’t compete effectively with crappy ideas. Please Facebook, fix this, because I hate Google+ and I really don’t want to have to switch.