This isn't an article bashing Facebook. Facebook is a business and a business needs to make money and nobody should begrudge them from doing so. That being said, I can't help wondering if it's coming to the end of the road for "civilians" and moving its attention completely to the needs of the business user. If that's the case, and it surely looks like it is, what can we do?
The short answer is 'About Facebook? Nothing'. Let's look at Facebook pages, for a long time businesses have been using them as a free way to engage with customers, to accurately gauge their customer demographic, and to save a fortune on advertising. The shift in business model at Facebook appears very much to be towards a 0% organic reach model for pages. Put simply, you just won't see anything from a page you like unless the page owner has paid to publicise their post. In pure business terms it's still a cost-effective strategy and far more economically viable than traditional advertising if you do it correctly.
But that's business, what about the countless pages which are fan pages? Pages created along an interest? Pages which people have used to replace their own small web presence because, let's be honest here, Facebook came with all the tools you need to easily engage with people who might be interested in what your site has to say. I've seen people claiming the decline in organic reach isn't the end of the world as you still get extended reach by people liking your posts and commenting on them. This is true, but what happens when nobody gets to see your post in the first place?
If this seems far-fetched consider that organic reach has dropped sharply even in the last six months. This time last year you might have had an organic reach of around 12%, now it's more like 1-2%. Think about it, if you make a post - be it a link to your site or elsewhere or just something you think your followers will enjoy - for every 100 followers only around 2 will probably see it. Sure it could be as many as 4 but if none of them click 'Like' or comment then your post is dead in the water. How is the person who would previously have had just a small website, perhaps of a niche interest, supposed to consider paying to boost that out there? For just $1 a day you could reach up to 4,000 people. So for $30 a month you could, theoretically, reach up to 120,000 people. That's cool, right?
Well...yes and no. If your interests really are of the niche variety what percentage of those 120,000 people do you think will click on your post? Not sure? Well, take a look at your personal feed on Facebook, do you often pay attention to those promoted posts or just cruise on by? What makes sense for a business willing to spend $30 per day does not make sense for the person who only blogs about Italian horror films of the 1980's. There are plenty of people interested in such things out there, but how many of them will be one of the 120,000 who find your post hanging around on their timeline?
Facebook has changed the way we use the Internet. People literally spend hours on the site but the quality of content they get is lessened almost constantly as it shifts more towards being an advertising engine than a way to share interests. Monetisation is inevitable, of course, but it does appear like they're ignoring the core of what made Facebook so good in the first place, especially given as they even ask you to "boost" your personal posts intended for your friends too. Some might say this will be the downfall of Facebook but I'm not so sure. Their control of the marketplace is so incredibly vast you can't even see the edges. They got people hooked, got everyone dependent, and now it's time to cash in on that.
So what can we DO? I don't like problems without solutions either, even if the solutions aren't easily achievable. In part 2 of this article (because this is getting a touch long isn't it and we've not had chance to go check Facebook to see what our friends have had for breakfast yet) I will look at how things used to be and how we can borrow some of that and move forwards in decentralising the Internet.