Facebook is getting ready to squeeze harder on the udders of its advertisers. Facebook tests changes to the News feed that make organic reach fall. Under this new plan, access to people’s main News feed will be reserved for friends, family and paying advertisers. Other publications will be relegated to the “Explore” feature which is a gallery of horrors.
For many organizations, Facebook is the main source of traffic to websites. And the pressure has been building in the last few years. Every year, to maintain the same reach, campaigns have to grow longer and / or more expensive. As the pressure builds slowly, these organisations usually respond by incrementally raising their Facebook Ad budget to maintain results.
If the test is generalized, everyone will be subject to the same mounting pressure. Not only product and service companies but also media outlets, communities, and individual artists. The Oatmeal explains it beautifully in this post.
Whether this big squeeze happens worldwide or not, let this scare be a warning. Facebook will keep squeezing harder. Stop upping your Facebook budget and divert some of this money to other channels. Right now.
Facebook aren’t the only ones squeezing either. Rumors about LinkedIn and changes to their Groups feature are plausible. The real problem is that nobody knows what’s happening. We’re all subject to the whims of these big companies because we let them come between our audiences and us. It was really convenient for a while but it’s time to rethink this.
This problem is not only about our employers’ or clients’ ad money either. The undue centralization of our online services has ugly political implications. The web was meant to be a solid peer-to-peer network but our over-reliance on centralized services made it susceptible to corruption by bad actors. Facebook’s test worries independent press outlets and could further damage democracy. Big ad buys and botnets were used to pass Brexit and get Donald Trump elected.
We can’t turn back time and go back to 100% RSS and self-hosted blogs. But we should diversify and de-centralize whenever possible. Resist.