As the Chief Executive Officer and co-owner of LayOpinion.com, I spend a great deal of my time building and managing the company brand online. Countless times a day, I am on Facebook, Twitter, Google Analytics and other sites to keep an eye on possible areas for growth and brand recognition. While I have successfully managed and built other brands online, I have encountered a considerable amount of resistance with Lay Opinion.
Our company’s organic growth has been healthy. When we reached out to family and friends to Like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter and visit our site weekly, we had a wonderful response. However, our viral growth has been nothing short of awful, despite a visually appealing website with wonderfully written content. The cause – unlike a year ago, an organization must now PAY to achieve virality. If you’re a logic buff like me, you are probably asking yourself, “If you PAY for it, doesn’t that make it organic growth, not viral growth?” My point exactly.
In order for our Facebook page, posts and Tweets to gain popularity, we have to pay to “promote” them. Now, I understand that this service fulfills a critical advertising need for major event companies and national brands. I am not upset that the service is offered, but am disturbed that the ads are presented in a way that makes them appear as genuine viral content. Facebook and Twitter have now forced small businesses and non-profit organizations to compete with global brands for advertising space, rather than let users decide between what is popular or interesting, and what is expensive and highly targeted corporate propaganda.
I’ll give you a perfect example of how these new promotion models have affected our small business. On one particular day this fall, we nearly doubled our Facebook fans, adding 75 “likes” within 24 hours. Under the old social networking model, our page would have been featured at the top of hundreds of news feeds across the country. Users would have been greeted with a post that said something like, “10 of your Friends Liked Lay Opinion,” which would have strongly influenced those users to visit our page and our website. The new “Promoted Post” model, however, seems to create “sticky” posts based not on virality, but solely on a bidding system. Thus, instead of something appearing at the top of a newsfeed because it is actually popular, it appears because a person or organization paid for it to stay there. Case in point: how many folks have been on Facebook mobile and noticed that posts for Samsung and Wal-Mart have been consistently at the top of their newsfeeds, even if only one friend liked the page? Those posts are there, not because the pages are actually popular, but because these companies paid for their posts to stay near the top of your newsfeed.
My business isn’t the only one feeling the pain. I have come across numerous Facebook pages voicing the same concerns. Last week, Conspirare, a world class concert choir based in Austin, Texas sent out a message to all of their fans on Facebook: ”Conspirare fans, you may not have been receiving all of our updates because Facebook now requires pages to pay to promote their posts and reach all fans. We’d rather spend our funds to bring you more music.” I concur.
Now look, I realize that Facebook has to make money. Actually, they have to make LOTS of money because it takes an incredible amount of time, effort and employees to manage the world’s largest social networking site. But there are better ways to make money than to fake the popularity of pages and posts. I much rather have a large banner advertisement, or a small ad in the middle of my Newsfeed, than to feel that money, not virality, is determining what information I see.
All of us here at Lay Opinion are hoping that Facebook strongly considers changing this model. Remember – millions of MySpace users originally converted to Facebook because there were too many advertisements, and the site didn’t feel authentic. Over the past few months, many of my friends and family members are beginning to leave Facebook for the exact same reasons. Take notice Facebook…