In the tech world, Facebook comes in for quite a bit of stick, its business model as an ad supported platform is fundamentally flawed, its mobile strategy is essentially flawed and let’s not get into outrage over privacy issues and so on…
But the reality is that in the mainstream, non tech world, Facebook is still, by some considerable margin the king of social networks. I’m sure I’m not unusual when I say that the vast majority of my non tech friends use Facebook as their only social network. However, all that might be about to change.
In May Facebook announced promoted posts to pages (pay so that more of your userbase will see your updates) and as this rolled out to all pages they also tweaked Edgerank so that even less of your (page) updates will be seen by your Facebook community. Coincidence? But even that could be considered to be fair game, hey it’s a business, they have to make money, if you want to use it as a marketing channel for your own business you have to accept it won’t be free etc.
However, they’re now rolling out the promoted post options to people’s personal accounts. So as an individual I can pay to have more of my friends/connections see one of my updates. And this is where I believe Facebook may start to lose the very audience that is essentially loyal to Facebook and up until now haven’t been concerned with, or even aware of, most of the other contentious issues.
As the screenshot above shows, there is so much room for promoted posts on profiles to fail. Aside from the risk of an insensitive ‘hey you want to promote that post about how depressed you are?’ situation, how will users feel when their feeds are cluttered up with paid for ‘look at ME type posts’. It truly feels like a desperate attempt to bleed every last cent out of the platform. There is another issue too, on Facebook’s sign up page it’s very clear with its message:
“It’s free and always will be.”
Clearly if some users are able to pay in order to obtain more prominence within the network then you can’t really claim it’s free.
For now it seems that promoted posts to profiles is only available for some people. Facebook announced it a couple of weeks ago by saying that it’s ‘testing promoted posts for people in the US‘ but it’s definitely appearing as an option on UK profiles too (in response to a tweet I sent out earlier today, 10 UK based people with whom I’m connected had been randomly offered the opportunity to promote a post).
Perhaps they are genuinely only testing it and will withdraw it but if not, this could be the point in history that Facebook starts to lose appeal to its core user base. And that’s the point from which is is very difficult to return.