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For years, companies have been begging customers and would-be customers to “like” their pages on Facebook. Once you do, that store or local restaurant starts competing with your friends and family for space in your newsfeed. Increasingly, Facebook’s algorithms filter out those commercial posts.
Nate Elliot, an analyst with Forrester Research, says very little of what companies post these days gets seen. “Ever since Facebook started selling ads on its site, mysteriously, it started showing a lot less of brands’ content those brand’s fans on Facebook,” he says.
Starting in January, Facebook says it will crack down even harder on what it calls overly promotional posts, like those that push people to buy apps or enter a sweepstakes. Or posts that reuse the same wording from paid ads.
But what defines “overly promotional”?
It’s a gray area, says Jim Rudden, chief marketing officer of Spredfast, a social marketing platform. Rudden tells clients they should keep posting even if the rules change, but they should make sure their posts are what people will want to see. The industry term for this is “good content.”
“Is it going to be challenging to [place] some of that in the newsfeed?” Rudden asks. “Yes, it will be, and I’m going to have to pay for that. As a marketer, though, I’m used to paying for reach.”
But many companies on Facebook, especially small businesses, have grown used to getting that reach for free. Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst with eMarketer, says “small businesses that might have thought that Facebook was going to be a free promotional mechanism, aren’t going to find that to be the case anymore.”
She says Facebook wants to keep its users happy by keeping promotional clutter out of their feeds, but this also part of a bigger trend to push companies into buying ads, instead of giving them valuable real estate for free.