Facebook to brands: our relationship is changing

Facebook to brands: our relationship is changing

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As part of Facebook’s ongoing tweaks to what posts appear in your newsfeed, it has announced that it is to reduce the amount of “overly promotional” posts that we see. They want to reduce the extent to which organic posts by brands are, in essence, being used as ads.

Based on user feedback, Facebook finds three types of post that are overly promotional:

  1. Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
  2. Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
  3. Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

We’ve probably all followed brands that use Facebook like this consistently, any many of us have probably then unfollowed them. Promotional posts like this are typically not that interesting and are taking up space that could be filled with photos of or friends, or more interesting content from other brands and organisations. Removing them from Facebook will create more space for content that we are more likely to be interested in and interact with.

But these changes also show us the changing relationship between Facebook and brands, and Facebook and its users.

Overly promotional posts make it seem like there are many more ads on Facebook than there really are – this risks alienating audiences and decreasing their satisfaction with using the site. At a time when Facebook is reaching saturation in some markets, it needs to switch from growing the number of users it has to increasing the amount of time that users spend on the site. To do this it needs to maximise the space for content that people want to see and want to interact with, and carefully balance this with the ads that help to pay for the service

If brands want to advertise to their audiences on Facebook, then Facebook wants them to pay for this. When Facebook was young and growing, brands provided a valuable role of advertising the platform and attracting people to use it. Now that they are reaching saturation point, this value is diminishing – Facebook needs to get value from brands in other ways. They either need brands to help to increase the amount of time that users spend on the site, or they need them to pay for advertising. Ideally, they would want them to do both.

Brands, many of whom have spent considerable sums of money to agencies (and in many case to Facebook for ads) growing their audiences on the platform may resent these changes. They may think that have the right to post what they like.

But whilst the rules of Facebook continue to change, one thing is constant – people don’t want to see these overly promotional posts anyway. They want to see posts and content that they find interesting and they want to engage with. Whether from brands or from their friends. Good content is critical to success on Facebook – and this is much harder than just pushing out another promotional message.