Facebook has been busy again, so busy in fact that we thought we’d take an in depth look at what the biggest of the social networks has changed this year and how it is helping or hindering your business.
First the statistics: Based on current trends it is predicted that there will be 1.3 to 1.5 billion people using Facebook by the end of 2013, while a new study by Adobe has found that Facebook brand engagement has risen 896 percent on a year-over-year basis.
Adobe’s research points to Timeline’s introduction as a major factor for engagement growth while other reports from spring 2012 indicated that Timeline had garnered positive results for most small to medium-sized brand pages that were early engagers.
However, it’s actually not as rosy for many businesses as that sounds because in the summer Facebook changed the way it showed posts and updates to a page’s fans (the ones who have already ‘liked’ your business’s page) based on its EdgeRank scoring.
This caused a fairly impressive stir online, with some page admins claiming only 6% of your business’s actual fans now actually see your marketing posts and messages, while others rightly pointed out that only 20-30% of fans would have actually ever seen your posts depending on when you posted and whether they were online at the time.
This was somewhat mitigated by Facebook introducing Promoted Posts, which allows pages to amplify their reach by ‘pinning’ a post to the top of their fans newsfeed for a period (exactly how long depends on a number of factors). However, this has also split the marketing community, with some thrilled that they now had a more subtle way of reaching their audience, and at reasonable cost, while many others cross because they now have to pay to get their message out, especially when they found that they couldn’t even promote their posts if they had under 500 likes.
Many pixels have been devoted to how you improve your Business Page’s performance, but essentially most ways of getting round Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm are either just Best Practice for Facebook Marketing, and therefore will take time (and probably more time now, especially from a standing start), or could actually lose you fans, rather than gain reach, including asking fans to add you to their ‘Get Notifications’ list.
In fact it seems that some businesses have been looking to sidestep the restrictions altogether and legitimately buy Facebook ‘likes’, although any organisation that chooses to go down this route must ensure that they buy Facebook likes in a way that doesn’t risk being penalized by major search engines, or run foul of Facebook itself.
The latter is a legitimate concern as Facebook recently announced that there are currently about 83 million fake accounts, all of which it is intent on disabling. These accounts are divided into three categories by Facebook: Duplicate accounts, Misclassified accounts (accounts that have been made for pets, groups or companies) and Undesirable accounts (accounts created for the purpose of spamming), and there have been reports of a drop likes on business pages since Facebook’s purge began.
This deletion of Misclassified accounts by Facebook also raises further problems for small businesses that have a company page sat on a personal profile because if they don’t move their page to a Business Page, their existing page will eventually be deleted without warning.
In addition Facebook also plans to wipe all the information associated with the name from public view, and if this happens Facebook says it will not all allow that person or organisation to create another account without their permission.
Other marketers prefer to buy scrapped data, like a certain dating site last year and the Bulgarian blogger who bought 1.1 million Facebook users for $5 this year, and even Google.
Despite claims that Facebook is making the platform difficult for business, promotional tools do seem to be very much part of Facebook’s remit this year and in October they have announced they would be relaunching Facebook Gifts (known as ‘F-Commerce’ and previously tabled in 2010), which was the driving force behind its acquisition of mobile gift-giving app Karma.
Initially rolled out in the States in September, more information about how this would work with retailers and internationally was expected to be shared at an event in New York on 1st November, now rescheduled for 15th November as a result of Sandy. The service will also enable charitable donations as gifts, and user initial reports appear cautiously positive despite the naysayers.
In short, Facebook is reevaluing the enormous amount of data it is sat on and is intent on using that to make the platform more accessible for marketers – but at a price. It’s whether that’s a price your organisation is willing to pay that’s the crucial issue.