Monday, November 17, 2014

Facebook Decision Doesn't Solve the Social-Commercial Dichotomy

On Friday, Facebook announced that they would begin filtering out messages from users newsfeeds that are deemed to be overly promotional.  This will be determined by Facebook's algorithm that generally will follow basic criteria such as posts that want to users to buy a product or install an app, enter promotions and sweepstakes without real context and posts that reuse content from ads.   Facebook's goal is an admirable one - to provide more relevant content to users.

On the surface, this sounds like a great thing.  However, this decision is reflective of the problem that Facebook will never be able to solve.  People want content that isn't trying to sell them stuff but that's ultimately what it needs to do to stay in business.  It will constantly find itself juggling this tradeoff between serving clients and serving customers.          

Interestingly, AdAge speculates that cutting the reach of unpaid posts will have a positive affect on the rates as well as the number of paid advertisers due to decreasing the supply of advertising.  In the short-term this could happen.  However, in the long-term, they will eventually find themselves fighting the same problem with users pushing back on paid ads too.  After all, it's a real tell that Facebook finds itself needing to filter out unpaid posts because this is the content its users actually opt in to by liking that Page.  Yet, users are telling Facebook they are sick of seeing it now and regret giving these pages permission.

I think the important lesson to be learned is determining what's relevant to someone isn't as simple or logical as associating with it.  But it's perfectly understandable that despite the fact that all consumers have preferences and loyalties, that doesn't mean they want to find themselves in front of an ad or similarly disguised content about those brands every time they have something to say.

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic and any other interesting marketing-related musings

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