A few years ago I attended a breakfast networking meeting in which the guest speaker, a ‘Social Media Specialist’ helpfully informed the audience that ‘if your business isn’t on Facebook you’ll cease to exist’. Hyperbole much? He then went on to explain that people would do well to ‘stop wasting money’ on their own web presence as Facebook is ‘where its at’. No mention of the fact that they would be handing over control of their entire online presence (and the ownership of their content) to a somewhat unpredictable ‘for-profit’ organisation. In this instance I bit my tongue…
In the past couple of years businesses following the gold rush have trampled each other on their way through the door to take advantage of the supposedly free traffic and exposure available on Facebook – how many cafe’s have you visited with counters covered in ‘LIKE US ON FACEBOOK’ paraphernalia?
Privately however we’ve been advising our clients to take care with just how far they entwine their businesses with social media due to the lack of control and ownership involved. To us this seemed to be basic common sense. Sure, plaster yourselves all over Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, whatever. Just make sure that you maintain your own web presence as the primary point of contact and source of your content.
Now it seems the party is predictably over with Facebook announcing that the free ride is over.
According to Valleywag’s Sam Biddle
Facebook pulled the best practical joke of the internet age: the company convinced countless celebrities, bands, and “brands” that its service was the best way to reach people with eyeballs and money. Maybe it is! But now that companies have taken the bait, Facebook is holding the whole operation hostage.
According to Biddle’s sources, in a move that would affect “all brands” Facebook is “in the process of” slashing “organic page reach” down to 1 or 2 percent. To put this into perspective, the article cites Nike with over 16 million likes, would only be able to reach around 160,000 of their followers with a post.
Whilst this seems like a lot to us mere mortals, the numbers are obviously a lot starker when applied to a small local businesses with say 1,000 ‘likes’ who could, under these changes, expect to reach only a dozen customers…
Biddle notes that “The alternative is of course to pay for more attention. If you want an audience beyond a measly one or two percent, you’ll have to pay money—perhaps a lot of money, if you’re a big business.” and puts into perspective what we have been trying to tell people for years:
On the other hand, Facebook is a business. It’s easy to forget. It’s not a charity, or a non-profit, or an art project. So much of the tech industry is predicated on the myth-belief that income is optional, that as long as you make something pretty and well-liked, success will somehow arrive out of the ether. That’s a sham. Facebook has to make money like the Nikes of the world—the same companies that are now going to raise hell when the free firehose runs dry.
Ultimately, whilst social media is a juggernaut that cant be ignored, it also shouldn’t be underestimated. Nor should anyone (particularly business people) be naive enough to expect a free ride. When all is said and done – there’s a lot to be said for owning your own web presence and content…