It’s no secret that I don’t always like Facebook. A lesser known fact is that I’m not a huge fan of Mark Cuban either. He’s loud and abrasive, and I just generally find him to be an annoying person.
Recently, Cuban went to town on Facebook claiming that the company is intentionally messing with the News Feed to ensure that brands must pay to reach their fans. Since then, PageLever and several other companies have lept to Facebook’s defense, citing data to show that the EdgeRank changes have not made a negative impact on engagement metrics, even while page reach has decreased . This sort of data gives credence to the idea that Facebook’s EdgeRank algortihm is working and delivering more relevant posts to the news feed.
Before I get too deeply into this, I want to acknowledge a few things. Each side of this has a bias, Page Lever relies almost entirely on the Facebook newsfeed for their survival. Brands, especially BIG brands, moving away from Facebook would be a tragedy in their world. Cuban, lost a some money better on Facebook stock. I dislike Facebook for their shady behavior and a myriad of other reasons. [See other Facebook posts on this blog.]
Now that I’ve acknowledged the bias…
I call Bullshit.
Facebook makes changes to fulfill their own objectives.
Take “Zuckerberg’s Law” that states that the amount of sharing will double every year. Facebook has been engineered to fulfill that prophecy. The amount of sharing on Facebook increased by the introduction of the Like button and then, in order to continue to fulfill that “law” Facebook introduced Frictionless Sharing, a method of passively sharing information from other applications. I’ve stated before “sharing” is a purposeful, conscious decision, not something that happens without your knowledge or implicit acceptance. Therefore the data on sharing is actually to be taken with a grain of salt, because leaving Spotify on and having it broadcast my music is hardly “sharing,” it’s surveillance Facebook has been engineering their platform with each iteration to cause its users to share more and more information with or without their knowledge This includes sharing data with applications and advertisers. So Zuckerberg’s Law comes true, and everyone keeps buying into “the genius of Zuckerberg’s futurist insight.”
Zuckerberg once stated that “fewer than five percent of Facebook users have ever used Facebook’s “friend list” tool.” What’s telling about that, is that at the time the statement was made, it took more than 3 clicks to even get to the lists feature. I know this because I am a compulsive list user. It was another self-fulfilling prophecy. “People want to use the News Feed” because “they don’t use lists,” yet lists were cumbersome and obscured. Even now, I can’t choose to have a list BE my news feed. I have to navigate to it.
All of this, and more, causes me to be extremely skeptical about the “data” that is coming back about what the changes in EdgeRank mean for brands.
EdgeRank is an abomination
Facebook should not be in charge of our News Feeds, we should be in charge of our own news feeds…and I don’t mean spending countless hours modifying the settings for each person and page to inform EdgeRank of how to adapt our News Feed. EdgeRank is how Facebook is going to make money because it’s how they can maintain control of what we see, and it’s how they can hold brands, and even people, hostage in the most populated pay-to-play social site on the web. Edge Rank is not noise control, it’s simply control.
As a user, I want to see what I want to see without spending several hours to tweak how Facebook curates my News Feed, this is why lists are so powerful. While lists are more useful than ever on Facebook, I’m still not entirely sure if they are messing with what I see in my lists, I never let my guard down with Facebook.
EdgeRank is another self-fulfilling prophecy. By making the News Feed a Facebook-curated feed, and making the process of customizing the Facebook News Feed algorithm so arduous and time-consuming, Facebook is getting exactly what they want, a population of users that does very little to tweak their News Feed and accepts what they are given. They interact with what they see rather than what they may want to see. Therefore changes show that engagement stays the same, while reach can still decrease.
What distresses me about EdgeRank most is that it compels brands to learn how to play the EdgeRank game rather than how to engage and understand THEIR audience. No two brands are the same, no two people are the same, and while similarities may arise, Facebook will never know what my goals and asiprations are simply because of how I interact with my News Feed. In fact, I would argue, that Facebook can actually alter perspectives by choosing what is shown in the News Feed.
What are brands learning?
EdgeRank creates a paradigm in which brands are forced to learn from Facebook. If users saw everything, brands would know what works because the EdgeRank variable does not exist. Brands now need to understand what Facebook wants them to post in order to get exposure; either that, or to pay to reach those that have already opted in. By contrast, if “the firehose” was turned on and users could apply a series of filters to control what is seen, all brands would have the opportunity to learn what gets them the results that they want. If someone hid them, marked them as spam or unliked them, they would know they messed up. Now they can’t even be sure who saw the post.
The beauty of social media is that it leveled the playing field. Brands could interact with customers on a one-to-one level. Customers could directly engage brands and have a say in products, services and how their peers perceive brands. It was the equalizer. Now EdgeRank is changing the game. It’s no longer about whether or not a brand is doing the right thing for THEIR customers and audience, it’s about whether Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm determines the post is worthy of being seen in the News Feed. In this way brands learn nothing about their customers except how to beg for likes and comments. While Mark Cuban may not have any more or less success on other networks, he’s not wrong about the problems with the Facebook’s relationships with brands and users.
I’ll leave you with this one parting thought on a HUGE reason why EdgeRank is an abomination:
Brands have different types of customers because we all behave differently online. Some people create content, others respond to it, some collect and curate, and some simply watch from the sidelines. If you are a brand that has an audience of watchers, people who don’t create, collect or interact with content, but do consume it, how can you compete on Facebook? If your audience is not creating data that EdgeRank can interpret, how will it know to show your posts in the feed? So now brands that have very engaged but quiet customers are forced to pay for exposure. By contrast if the users were shown everything that they opted in to see brands with watcher customers would be able to compete as much as those with creators and critics.
Who do you want in control of your News Feed?
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