Is This the End of Earned Influence on Facebook?

Recent algorithmic changes have rendered earned media less effective. The solution, says Facebook, is buy more ads.

Marketers using Facebook may have seen a drop off in engagement recently. In a sales deck obtained by AdAge, that was distributed to partners last month, Facebook acknowledges the problem. The social media behemoth also cited algorithmic changes as the cause, and offered a simple solution: stump up the cash for more ads to replace the lost reach.

“We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site,” Facebook said in the documents. Indeed, the recent changes to the news feed have pushed the pages of marketers down, making it harder for businesses to generate organic buzz or engagement.

The other half of the equation smacks of extortion. Facebook suggests “to maximize delivery of your message in newsfeed” you should start paying to promote your posts. Facebook is like Lucy, promising that this time she really will let Charlie Brown kick the football.

The material goes on to state that the benefit of a larger fan base is “improved advertising effectiveness” and “lower costs for paid ads.” Building a fan base is no longer good enough to guarantee success, you need to advertise. So advertise to build your base, then buy cheaper ads thanks to your large base. Sounds like the perfect racket.

It is possible that this problem may have occurred naturally. A Facebook spokesperson Facebook told AdAge “[…] because more people are sharing more things, the best way to get your stuff seen if you’re a business is to pay for it.” While Facebook used to be a good way to generate earned media, the site has become very crowded.

The staff at Facebook seem torn between maintaining user engagement by delivering desired content, and keeping the businesses happy. Looks like the users come out on top this round.