Jun 112012

Facebook’s recent rollout of Promoted Posts and Pages Insights has stirred up a storm of controversy among members of the Facebook community, including the little corner of it occupied by metal bands, their fans, independent labels, and blogs like this one. The development that generated the most intense feelings of betrayal was the revelation that Facebook shares Page posts with only a small fraction of fans who have “liked” the page, and that Facebook will deliver page posts more widely only if you pay them to do it.

Much has been written about these changes — and much of it has been wrong.

Last week I wrote an article on NCS about these changes, and I got some things wrong, too. I spent hours this weekend surfing the web, trying to separate fact from fiction, instead of listening to metal. That was a really piss-poor tradeoff. I’ve learned some things, but even after some fairly intensive research, I still haven’t found the answers to some important questions. That in itself is worrisome, not so much because I’m a mediocre researcher (though I am), but because Facebook hasn’t been entirely open and above-board in what it’s been doing.

But, I do seem to have learned more than a lot of people who’ve unwittingly been spreading misinformation on Facebook band Pages during the last week. So, what I plan to do in this post is separate fact from fiction (expressly citing the sources of my information) and clearly identify the questions that I still haven’t been able to answer definitively.

I’ll also report on the results of our own experiment with Facebook’s new Promoted Posts feature — the one that lets you access more of the people who have already liked your Page by paying for it.

This is a long post, even by NCS standards, so here’s an “Executive Summary”: I’m still fuckin’ pissed off, and you should be, too.

Here’s a somewhat more complete “Executive Summary”:

- On average, a Page’s posts are seen by only 16% of the people who like the Page;

- Facebook uses a computer algorithm called EdgeRank that has an impact on who sees any given Page post, and who doesn’t — and they’ve been using that algorithm for at least a year;

- It’s not clear whether Facebook actually prevents users from seeing all Page posts, though there are good reasons to believe it does;

- Despite what you may have read, there are no free, easy fixes by which a Page administrator can ensure that all fans of the Page who are online will see the Page’s posts in their news feeds;

- Despite what you may have read, there are no easy or effective ways that fans of a Page can ensure they will see all the Page’s posts;

-  Facebook users will soon be seeing more Promoted Posts (ones that Pages pay Facebook to distribute more widely and effectively) in their news feeds — and that will make it even less likely they will see un-Promoted posts from the Pages they like.

- The rich will get richer, the poor will get poorer, and everyone will die.

Now for the details:

THE RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

The change that generated the most heat over the last week was the revelation that when the administrator of a Page adds a Page post, Facebook doesn’t automatically share them with everyone who has liked the Page.  In fact, Facebook itself reported at a marketing conference in January 2012 that, on average, only 16% of the people who have liked a Page see any given Page post.

Part of the reason is that Facebook uses an algorithm (a computerized formula) to determine which Page posts will appear on any individual’s news feed and the order in which they will appear. The algorithm is called EdgeRank. But it turns out that this isn’t a recent change.

I haven’t yet found any authoritative source which pinpoints the date on which Facebook began using EdgeRank, but it’s clear that Facebook has been using it since at least sometime in 2010. The reason why so many people (including me) are only now discovering this is because of the new Pages Insights feature that Facebook rolled out near the end of May.

This feature includes lots of bells and whistles, but the simplest one is a line at the bottom of each Page post that’s visible to the Page administrator (in the case of NCS, that would be me), but not to fans of the Page or anyone else who sees a Page post.

It shows two statistics: (1) the number of unique people who saw the post — which Facebook calls “people reached”, and (2) the percentage of people who like your Page who saw the post.  It also shows the percentage of your “likes” who were reached through “promotion” (more about that later).

Now, for the first time, page administrators like me can figure out quite easily that only a small percentage of our fans are actually seeing what we post on Facebook. Apparently, we’ve been whistling in the wind for more than a year and just didn’t realize it. We can also now tell which kinds of posts seem to be reaching the most people, which I guess is a good thing, though it doesn’t make me feel much better, and you’ll see why.

Looking at all the posts on the NCS Facebook page over the last 7 days, I can see (with a couple of exceptions I’ll come back to) that the percentage of our “likes” who saw the posts ranged from 13% to 34%, with the average being 23.5%.

That was surprising and discouraging. What made it maddening was Facebook’s rollout of the Promoted Posts feature, which Facebook said would enable Pages to reach more of the people who like them by paying Facebook for the privilege. And THAT raised all sorts of questions.

What it implies is that Facebook has had something to do with why the vast majority of a Page’s fans never see most Page posts. For example, if a large percentage of a Page’s fans were missing posts simply because they weren’t online, there would be nothing Facebook could do about that, no matter how much you paid them. But Facebook can certainly fix an attention deficit that Facebook itself helped create.

EDGERANK

And that takes me back to EdgeRank. That’s the name of the algorithm that Facebook uses to determine what Page posts appear in a user’s news feed and the order in which they appear. It’s Facebook’s way of determining what’s important and relevant to your interests — as opposed to letting you sort that out for yourself. It’s what’s responsible for a big chunk of that 84% of Page fans never seeing the average Page post.

When you understand EdgeRank, it then becomes obvious that in Facebook’s world, Page posts are in competition with each other for your attention — even if neither the Pages nor you realize it, or think of it as a competition. And EdgeRank is the referee that decides who wins and loses.

Why does Facebook use EdgeRank rather than just letting all posts from Pages you like appear in your news feed in the order in which they’re posted? Because Facebook believes their service will be less meaningful to you if the posts you care about the most get lost in a massive flood of posts appearing in your news feed that you care less about. And if it becomes less meaningful to you, there’s a greater chance you’ll leave Facebook altogether.

Note that Facebook is not content to let you decide for yourself what you want to see and giving you all the tools necessary to prioritize what you see. Why? Because we are sheep and Facebook is the shepherd, and they want our wool. They use EdgeRank to infer what we want to see based on our own individual behavior and the behavior of great masses of other Facebook users. How do they do this?

Facebook is secretive about the precise details of the EdgeRank formula, but conceptually it appears to use three factors: Affinity, Edge Weight, and Recency. In a nutshell, here’s what those factors mean:

“Affinity” is a measure of a user’s interaction with a Page. If you “like” a Page post, if you comment on a Page post, if you click a link in a Page post, if you share the post with your Facebook friends, you are increasing your Affinity score for that page. On the other hand, if you merely read the Page posts, your Affinity score for that Page will be lower, and you’ll see fewer posts from that Page in your news feed.

“Edge Weight” is a factor that decides some types of Page posts are more important to you than others. As a gross generalization, posts that include videos, photos, or links have a higher Edge Weight score than posts that contain nothing but words, particularly brief status updates. But it’s just a generalization, because the Edge Weight score will also depend on each user’s own behavior, based on the types of posts each user tends to click on.

You can slice the Edge Weight factor even more finely. This article, for example, says that these are the types of posts that get the best EdgeRank score:

  1. Photo with a minimum of 140 characters of descriptive text
  2. Link with a long description to introduce it
  3. Status with a long (280+) character body
  4. Video with a long (280+) character introduction

“Recency” (also known as “time decay”) means that newer Page posts are more likely to appear in a user’s news feed than older posts.

Applying these factors in a computerized formula, EdgeRank prioritizes Page posts in your news feed.  In default mode, posts will appear in a user’s news feed based on this ranking, which is called “Top Stories”. If you click on the “Sort” button on your home page, you’ll see that you also have the option of having posts appear in your feed based on which ones are Most Recent.  But even here, it appears that Facebook is applying the EdgeRank algorithm to decide the order in which “most recent” posts will appear. [NOTE: I've seen conflicting reports about whether Facebook filters posts using EdgeRank when you select the Most Recent setting. However, with the advent of Promoted Posts, it stands to reason that Facebook will filter even the posts that appear as Most Recent in order to deliver the promotion they promise when a Page pays to promote.]

What this means is that if you simply enjoy reading Facebook posts by a particular band, but don’t frequently interact with the posts, and if the bands themselves aren’t including links, videos, or photos in their posts, you’re less likely to see those posts — they’ll be losing out in the competition with other Page posts that get a higher EdgeRank.

DOES FACEBOOK PREVENT YOU FROM SEEING PAGE POSTS?

Does Facebook do anything but prioritize the order in which posts appear in your news feed?  Does it go further and actually cut off posts whose EdgeRank scores are lower than those of some number of other posts? In other words, does it actually prevent you from seeing Page posts, even if you scroll all the way through everything that appears in your news feed every day?

Amazingly, after many hours of Googling and reading, I haven’t found a definitive answer to that question. BUT, I have seen a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that yes, Facebook does prevent posts from appearing in a user’s news feed, even when the user has “liked” the Page that’s generating the post.

For example, I’ve seen comments from Page admins who, as individuals, have liked their own Pages — and yet do not see all of their Page’s posts. I’ve seen comments from fans of a Page (including the NCS Page) who say they have searched their news feeds carefully and simply do not see certain posts that they can see when they visit the Page directly.

Plus, I haven’t seen any clear statement by Facebook that they DON’T artificially restrict the number of posts that appear in a user’s news feed — and it would be really simple for them to say that, and say it repeatedly, if it were true, given the hostility that recent events have generated.

PROMOTED POSTS

That takes me back to Promoted Posts. As I explained in last week’s article, Facebook is now soliciting Page admins to promote posts by paying Facebook.  Facebook promises that if you pay to promote, your posts will be seen by more of your Page’s fans — and by friends of those fans, even if those friends haven’t “liked” your page. The more you pay, the broader the reach that Facebook will give you.

I haven’t seen a description of exactly how Facebook produces this broader reach, but it stands to reason that Facebook is either adding a factor to the EdgeRank formula — “promotion” — or just arbitrarily increasing the total EdgeRank score that a post would otherwise receive. Either way, Facebook will inflate your post’s EdgeRank score and give it a boost in the competition with other posts. Or at least that’s my educated guess about what happens when you pay the piper.

Paying Facebook to promote a post is still not a guarantee that all of a Page’s fans will see the promoted post.  Of course, some fans won’t be online when the post goes live, but even those who are will not all see the Post, because even a Promoted Post is still in competition with other posts in the EdgeRank formula. Maybe there’s some amount of money you can pay that will vanquish all the competition and get you close to a 100% reach. I don’t know.

What’s really annoying about this development to a lot of Page admins is that some of them have already been paying Facebook to promote their Pages through Ads (those things that you now see on the right side of every Facebook Page and profile), ie, paying Facebook to help increase the number of people who “like” their Pages, under the mistaken impression that they would be able to communicate with those people through Page posts.

And now they have to pay Facebook again in order to increase the odds that their communications will actually reach the people who have liked them.

QUICK “FIXES” (THEY WON’T WORK)

So, is there any way for a Page to increase its reach among fans who’ve liked the Page without paying Facebook to promote posts?  I’ve seen a bunch of bands add posts to their Pages over the last week asking fans to go to the band’s Page, hover their cursor over the “Liked” button, and by looking at the drop-down menu that will appear, make sure that “Show In News Feed” is checked.

Hate to say it, but that won’t fix the problem — not even close. If you do that, you’ll see that “Show In News Feed” is already checked, because that appears to be the default setting whenever you “like” a Page. Moreover, just because a Page’s posts are selected to be in your news feed doesn’t mean you will see it — because Facebook is still going to apply the EdgeRank algorithm to all the posts from the Pages you like.

I’ve seen another suggested fix, too. It goes like this (I’ve modified this “fix” to make it easier to use):

1. GO TO a page you’ve “liked.”
2. Hover you mouse over the “Liked” button.
3. Once you (finally) get a drop down menu, CLICK + NEW LIST
5. Click PAGES in the menu on the left side of the box that pops up, and you should see a listing of all the Pages you like
6. SELECT all the Pages whose posts you want to see in your news feed (eg, band pages)
7. Give your list a name (eg, BANDS I LIKE)
8. PUSH DONE

I don’t know if this will work, but I doubt that it will. It makes use of an Interests List feature that Facebook rolled out in March 2012.  According to Facebook’s announcement of the feature, creating the list will cause “the top stories from each interest” to appear in your news feed. It doesn’t say ALL STORIES. In addition, “top stories” is Facebook’s euphemism for the posts that win the EdgeRank competition.

LABOR-INTENSIVE “FIXES” (THEY WORK BETTER, BUT WILL STILL FAIL)

A Page admin and fans of a Page can also try to alter their behavior to increase the likelihood of fans seeing more of a Page’s posts in their news feeds, ie, doing things that will take advantage of the EdgeRank algorithm and generate higher scores.

Pages can change the nature of their posts to increase their Edge Weight and their Recency. There are web sites that teach you how to do such things (here is one, as an example). Fans can also interact more with the Pages that mean the most to them, instead of just reading posts from that Page when they see them.

But these kinds of behavior-mod “fixes” take extra time and effort, which are generally in short supply in the realm of underground metal — and I’ve seen no evidence that doing such things is going to consistently give a Page’s posts a reach of even 50% of fans or more.

I’m skeptical that there is, or ever will be, ANY workable fix to the problem of Page posts not being seen by the vast majority of a Page’s fans. Why? BECAUSE FACEBOOK WANTS PAGES TO PAY THEM TO PROMOTE PAGE POSTS!! If Page admins and their fans could easily fix the disappearing-posts problem themselves, why would any Pages pay Facebook to do it?

CONSEQUENCES

Your average metal band, indie label, and metal blog cannot afford to pay Facebook to promote all their posts.  But some of the Pages you like will be doing that. And some of the Pages your Facebook friends like will be doing that — and you will start seeing posts in your news feed from Pages you don’t even like, because part of what Facebook is offering Page owners in the Promoted Post service is the ability to reach friends of the Page’s fans.

What will this mean? It will mean that Promoted Posts will be given priority in your news feed, and if I’m correct in surmising that Facebook puts a limit on the number of posts that will appear in your news feed, that means you will be seeing more Promoted Posts and even fewer posts from the Pages you may care most about.

If you have a profile on Facebook, you will be fed what Facebook thinks is relevant to you and what they are paid to show you. You will not see everything you want to see. You will not be given your own choice about what you want to see.

If you have a Page on Facebook, you will not be able to consistently reach even a third of your fans unless you pay Facebook.  In other words, you can’t rely on Facebook as the sole means of promoting yourself and interacting with your fanbase. What was once (supposedly) the great leveling platform that allowed communities to form and communicate for free is gone, or at least in the process of going. Welcome to the new Facebook.

Face it, you are important to Facebook only to the extent you will ultimately help drive ad dollars or other forms of revenue in their direction. That doesn’t make them any different than almost every other for-profit corporation — but it’s a suckass change to be witnessing. In other words, understanding this fact of corporate life doesn’t make it smell any better.

Maybe a revolt among Facebook users can change all this. Maybe Facebook users will leave the herd and move over to greener pastures on some other social media platform. It has happened before (see MySpace). But really, what a pain in the ass that would be, having to start from scratch somewhere else.

Some people have made the argument that no band, label, or metal blog should be relying on Facebook to promote themselves or interact with fans. Instead, so the argument goes, they should be creating their own web pages and also using other forms of social media such as Twitter, Google+, etc., etc.

These arguments make sense, as far as they go. But they don’t change the fact that the biggest social media platform on Earth — one in which a big segment of the metal community has invested a lot of time and energy — is in the process of degrading. Telling us to grow up and get used to it may be good parental advice, but it is not a defense of what Facebook has done.

Because I’m not optimistic that the new, publicly traded Facebook will change its new ways, all I really want now is for them to be open and honest — to be transparent to their users about what they have done and what they will be doing going forward. And then the rest of us can make our choices.

Yeah, like that will happen.

RESULTS OF THE NCS EXPERIMENT

So, when I wrote the first article last week about this recent series of changes at Facebook, I added a post to the NCS Facebook page with a link to the article here at NCS — and I did two more things.  First, I paid Facebook $10 to “Promote” that Facebook post. Second, I paid Facebook another $10 to “Advertise” that post.

I haven’t spent nearly as much time trying to understand what happens when you Advertise a post on Facebook as what happens when you Promote the post. I assume my Facebook post showed up in some abbreviated form on the right side of pages for NCS fans and their friends, but I really don’t know.

Facebook will only allow you to Promote a post for 3 days, and I only paid to Advertise the post for 3 days. So the 3 days are over, and what were the results?

As I’m writing this article, Facebook reports that my Facebook post reached 10,968 people and 62% of the people who like the NCS Facebook page.

Of the 10,968 people my Facebook post reached, 929 people saw the post “organically” on the NCS wall (I assume this was the “natural” result of the EdgeRank algorithm), 1,024 people saw it “virally”, i.e., because one of their friends took some action with respect to the post (liking it, commenting on it, sharing it, etc.), and 9,900 people saw the post in an ad.

The most interesting part about these results is that $20 only got the post to 62% of NCS fans, even after 3 days. Of that number, 25% were reached through promotion.

Paying for the Ad clearly caused the post to reach more people than paying for the Promotion. But do I really care about all those extra people the Ad reached? By definition, most of them are people who hadn’t previously shown any interest in NCS, and just based on the increase in “likes” for the NCS page since the Ad started, it appears the vast majority haven’t become NCS fans.

Also, not everyone who saw the FB post clicked the link in the post and came through to the NCS site to read the article.  In fact, most of them didn’t. If my Google Analytics statistics are correct, 2,272 different people have viewed the article on NCS (accounting for 2,388 page views) since it went up, which is about 21% of the number of people who saw the Facebook post about the article — and many of the people who viewed the NCS article undoubtedly never saw the Facebook post. However, that’s still much higher than the average number of page views for a post on the NCS site.

I tried one other experiment. I paid Facebook $5 to promote my post about Andy Synn’s recent review of Whitechapel’s new album on the NCS site — but I didn’t buy a Facebook ad for the post. As of this writing — the maximum three days after my promotion started — my Facebook post about Andy’s review has reached 854 people, of which 418 were classified as people who saw the post because it was sponsored.

At a cost of $5, it has reached 49% of the people who like the NCS Facebook page, and Facebook tells me that 25% were reached because the post was promoted. In other words, the reach of the post is significantly greater than it would have been if I hadn’t paid for a promotion — but it’s still less than half of the people who like the NCS Page.

The practical lesson of all this is that it pays to Promote Facebook posts. For bands and labels, paying even $5 is worth it if you have a FB post that’s significant, eg, announcing a new song stream or video or album release or tour.

SOURCES

Okay, I’m done. All that’s left is for me to show you the sources of information I used in writing this article (and for you to express your thoughts about this article in the Comments if you’re so inclined):

http://www.facebook.com/help/promote

http://www.facebook.com/help?faq=389849807718635&in_context

http://ads.ak.facebook.com/ads/FacebookAds/Page_Insights_Guide.pdf

https://www.facebook.com/business/ads

http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=213208552035450

http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=245316378826196

http://www.insidefacebook.com/2012/05/30/facebook-rolls-out-promote-button-to-more-u-s-pages-provides-details-on-how-it-works/

http://edgerank.net/

https://www.facebook.com/marketing/posts/112845432188325

http://econsultancy.com/us/blog/9770-facebook-edgerank-what-marketers-need-to-know

https://www.facebook.com/help/pages/insights

http://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=277741542238350

http://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=218728138156311

http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=132070650202524

http://news.yahoo.com/facebook-promoted-posts-step-step-guide-075629438.html

http://mashable.com/2012/05/31/facebook-promoted-posts-tips/#66519Want-to-Promote-a-Post

http://newsroom.fb.com/News/Introducing-Interest-Lists-109.aspx

http://www.localbandhero.com/1/post/2012/06/facebook-charging-pages-for-promotion.html

http://www.localbandhero.com/1/post/2012/02/facebook-likes-help-but-only-when-earned.html

http://www.baekdal.com/insights/facebook-edgerank-promoted-posts-and-the-connection

http://www.fanpagetoolkit.com/blog/2012/06/08/facebooks-edgerank-how-its-helping-or-hurting-your-business/#.T9ToJ812mXg

http://mashable.com/2012/02/29/facebook-ads-explainer/

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/10/18/the-facebook-news-feed-how-it-works-the-10-biggest-secrets.html

66 Responses to “THE NEW FACEBOOK: FACT, FICTION, AND UNANSWERED QUESTIONS”

  1. Badwolf says:

    This is incredibly depressing news. I don’t have anything intellectual to add, other than the net result of corporate capitalism will always the an accumulation fo wealth at investment and upper management (facebook) away from users and small businesses (read: almost every metal label)

  2. Andy Synn says:

    I’m looking forward to more comments by people who are “superior” intenret users and don’t stoop to using facebook. I enjoy being told how I “should” be doing things by random commenters. I’m particularly looking forward to them missing the point of the article, and the issue, entirely, in order to post something wonderfully self-aggrandising.

  3. MaxR says:

    I’m not sure that your conclusion about the home page “Sort” button is correct. You write that FaceBook applies the EdgeRank algorithm even when you select the “Most Recent” option. How have you determined that? Any sources that verify that?

    But EdgeRank or not, select “Most Recent” instead of “Top Stories” and more recent page posts will show up in your news stream. Facebook may still be manipulating the stream, but at least it feels more like you’re simply seeing the posts as they appear.

    • Islander says:

      This article indicates that you’re still unlikely to see all posts even when you sort them in your News Feed by selecting the Most recent setting:

      http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/10/18/the-facebook-news-feed-how-it-works-the-10-biggest-secrets.html

      But I confess that I’m also making some guesses here, based on this logic: If FB wants the Promoted Post feature to be successful, it stands to reason that they would need to apply a weighting factor even when users have selected the Most Recent method of sorting posts in their News Feeds. Otherwise, they would be much less successful in delivering expanded reach for the dollars they charge.

      • MaxR says:

        The article is almost two years old. It mentions an “Edit Options” feature for the “Most Recent” stream, that option no longer exists – it was probably removed when the timeline was introduced.

        But we’ll never really know unless we conduct an experiment similar to the one in the article – but from the viewpoint of a page, not a regular Facebook user.

        • Islander says:

          You’re right that the article I found is dated. I spent a little time trying to find something more recent, and found nothing that seemed like it was based on actual knowledge. Switching to the Most Recent sorting option may well be the best way to avoid the FB algorithm, though I’m still suspicious about whether FB would leave that option open and free of algorithmic weighting, given the importance of this Promoted Post strategy.

  4. Fuck, I think you put more work into this post than I put into jerking off all year.

    That’s a lot of work.

    Umm…I, unfortunately, have nothing else to add besides “good job, buddy!”

    • Islander says:

      I put more work into this than the effort I put into jerking off all year, too. I clearly have an illness.

      • fiona says:

        :D you didn’t need to pay to promote this comment lol, stands out like dogs balls amongst all the technicality . definitely more work than wanking, per annum.. good work !

        • Islander says:

          Thank you! I live for compliments like this, ESPECIALLY ones that involve dogs balls. And I couldn’t resist paying to promote my FB post about this, because I have an ironical mind from time to time.

  5. Quigs says:

    Islander, as always when it comes to a social issue you write an incredibly compelling article. It’s great to see people in the blogosphere who take this craft we call writing as seriously as you do.

    Ultimately, what Facebook have tried to do here, for better or worse is to mimic what Google does. As someone who works in the industry I can tell you that every one of these big companies have a motive of making money, however Google are far more subtle in their manipulations. Their algorithms are actually very effective and are (for the most part) with the user in mind. Their goal is to satisfy queries.

    I think in 2010 Facebook identified that a lot of people were “liking” posts casually, with little consequence and then finding their news feeds clogged up with too much extra information. They created the Edgerank algorithm to try and combat this and deliver a better user experience, inspired by the way Google operate.

    However, Google have copious data banks built into the middle of the ocean and a much bigger operation, so really Edgerank doesn’t work as effectively. While it definitely removes a lot of the clutter, the problem is certain people suffer because it becomes very difficult to figure out what is relevant to a user and what isn’t. Edgerank unfortunately isn’t a mind reader and it’s all very well for us to complain about how we’re not reaching our fans, but frankly, there are probably a certain portion of people that have liked our page and moved on. For every couple of people who care, there’s probably a couple of people who don’t and sadly this is a trade off that we suffer for.

    I understand why everyone is angry and they feel betrayed, but honestly Facebook isn’t the first or the last company that has done this. Are people angry about the Edgerank algorithm? Or the option of another form of advertising? Every large site has to use algorithms that make these sort of decisions for us, and without the promoted posts feature people would have still probably been none the wiser.

    Promoted posts has been introduced at a time where Facebook are getting a lot of flak from the large marketing world. While interactions with consumers via free services provided by the Social Media Titan are indeed effective, their actual Facebook Advertising has been proved ineffective in comparison to what a Display Network or SEM/SEO can provide. This has caused behemoth’s of industry such as General Motors (one of the biggest advertisers in the world) to pull out of advertising on Facebook, which was an enormous blow to them and has raised concern from a lot of other industries about Facebook’s effectiveness.

    One could say we live in an age where Social Media brings people together, so you could argue that Facebook’s methods encourage everyone to interact more and share the things that they like. Visit the pages you care about regularly, share their posts and videos and interact with them. It’s hardwork and labour intensive which is not for everyone, but something like this could bring communities together.

    Of course that won’t happen because that’s idealism and we don’t live in an ideal world.

    Really, I think what Facebook need to do now is modify the Edgerank formula, try and improve upon it and make it a more effective algorithm at targeting what a user needs.

    There’s a lot more I could say on this topic, but that will do for now.

    • Islander says:

      You’ve got far more inside knowledge about this whole subject than I do. In fact, I’m positive that businesses and sophisticated observers who really spend a lot of time dissecting the commercial pros and cons of Facebook will find this article to be very rudimentary and incomplete. But that’s part of what’s so dismaying to me about what I’ve learned: Your average metal band/label/blog doesn’t have the training, the money, or the time to get to that level of sophistication, and so they (like most FB users) are stuck in the role of pawns in a big game.

      Maybe it’s unrealistic to think that FB (or any other social media platform) could give users the tools they need to make effective decisions for themselves about how to interact in communities on the web instead of being manipulated in the service of someone else’s commercial agenda.

      • Quigs says:

        I know you’re upset and dismayed dude and I understand that,but I assure you, it’s less than “big evil corporation” and more of trying to satisfy users and their experience, but having limited resources to do so.

        Sure, there is an element of pure money making involved, as with anything, but that element is considerably less than the genuine error. Their algorithm is severely limited in comparison to someone like Google. Google draws from incredibly comprehensive data.

        The truth is, everything we do on the internet is monitored and stored in offshore databanks. Everyone is merely a cluster of data. Whether you delete your cookies or use incognito browsing ultimately somewhere your data is picked up and stored and all of your Google queries and Display advertising is targeted to your interest. They know every website you visit, each webpage within that website, how long you were on the web page, what was your level of interaction with the page, what caught your eye etc.

        Google and huge ad networks can draw from all of this data so that their version of EdgeRank perfectly marries user and content. Facebook at this stage unfortunately only can generate information based on your interaction with Facebook, which makes their algorithm extremely limited, thus not fulfilling everyone’s desires.

        The promotional page post is genuinely a new way for them to try and improve their paid advertising service and try and claw back some money that they lost from big companies pulling out of their more primitive form of advertising, which isn’t as effective as the viral possibilities.

        If you consider that Edgerank has been going since 2010, yet they’ve only just released the Promotional Post feature I can guarantee you that this wasn’t their “diabolical plan” all along.

        • Sean says:

          A hundred times this. I can almost guarantee that this page promotion and EdgeRank inefficiency is more the result of Facebook’s lack of experience in this field (as well as its ivy-league arrogance) than some diabolical evil corporation conspiracy. Another reason why its such a shame Google+ never took off. More privacy options, better user control, elegant design, years upon years of experience, awesome social tools like Hangouts, etc, etc. Maybe it’ll have a resurgence if Facebook continues down this path, but I don’t have much hope that users are willing to convert, especially those less tech-savvy.

    • Islander says:

      Here’s another thought, regarding your point about facebook needing to improve EdgeRank: I read tons of FB posts by bands, labels, and PR firms. I rarely “interact” with them by liking posts, commenting on posts, sharing posts, etc. — but that doesn’t mean I’m uninterested or that what I’m reading is unimportant to me. And lots of posts without links, photos, videos, etc., mean just as much to me as those that have such additional content. But I can’t conceive of any algorithm that can infer my interests when I don’t interact. So, it seems that people like me who are mainly just readers aren’t going to get what we want through any enhancement of EdgeRank.

      • Quigs says:

        Well surely someone could argue that you’re not using a social media network effectively then? I’m not arguing with you, and I too am mostly a reader to a lot of the stuff that’s in my feed, but when I see something particularly relevant, I hit “like”. Something so small and seemingly inconsequential, can spell the difference between future updates or not.

        • Islander says:

          I’ve learned that now, and am doing that more often, because it’s effortless, and certainly more effective than most of the “fixes” I’ve seen bands promoting in their FB status updates.

  6. Sean says:

    Not a surprising move at all for Facebook. In fact it’s an incredibly smart move for Facebook especially since they’ve gone public. Not saying I like the change, but I think we knew this was a long time coming. Free rides never last forever. Business is business and they’ve got to open new revenue streams somehow, can’t blame them for doing what’s best for their company’s future.

    It’s already too late for the Google+ boat. As much as I loved its simplicity and elegance (i would’ve happily stayed on G+), none of my friends truly migrated and none of them probably ever will. Twitter is always there, but I personally don’t use it. Comes across as spammy and irrelevant to me most of the time. Just a constant sift through garbage posts. On that end I agree with Facebook and it’s attempt to keep my feeds relevant, but I agree with you that I’d rather have those tools in my hands rather than an algorithm that my favorite pages have to pay to pass.

    I honestly don’t know how else to promote and interact with fans though. Setting up a website is costly and time consuming. Blogs simply don’t have the reach Facebook can (potentially) provide. The only thing I could think of is if Bandcamp integrated their own social features into their service. I wouldn’t be surprised if something was already in the works given the explosion of success they’ve had over the past couple years.

    • Islander says:

      For all my dismay at what is happening at Facebook, I think it would be foolish for bands to ignore it or leave it. For all its flaws, it’s still a useful tool — just not as useful as we thought it was.

      Bandcamp has tremendous potential, and has been really smart about the way they’ve rapidly built themselves into a great platform for distributing music. I think you’re right that they’re going to be leveraging that platform into new types of services. It will be interesting to see how Bandcamp evolves going forward.

  7. MileHighTy says:

    NCS,

    Thank you for that post. Being in an underground metal band you see this stuff all the time with online promotion. I saw it with MySpace and now with Facebook. I don’t want to say that this move is good or bad. I would like to say this means that underground bands, and bands in general have to work harder to get themselves out there. This means hitting the streets and showing people who you are and exposing your music to them. Granted it is a bunch more work but the payoff is greater in the end. Facebook has been a good way to expose a greater audience to my music, but locally word of mouth has been much more effective. So I could damn Facebook for what they are doing, but really they are doing what every other promotion company or advertising company does. Yes you will have to work harder, yes you will have to struggle, but this will mean that everything you earn will be yours. Your hard work will be rewarded with real results.

  8. raptros-v76 says:

    I’d like to add some fire against the “don’t use facebook” argument. The problem: just about everyone who can be reached through the internet is now on facebook. Why is this? My working hypothesis is identity management – facebook provides a very easy to use tool that secures and authenticates an identity. Users have the sense that the people they interact with over FB have the same identity over time. This is crucial for interactions in a public forum.
    What’s the problem with FB, then? Simple: the suite of tools they provide, i.e. the channels for interactions between identities, sucks. From my interactions with people who work at FB, the sense I’ve got of the culture is that it’s exactly the kind of place where everyone would think that EdgeRank could have ever been a good idea. EdgeRank breaks user expectations in subtle ways (which I believe will lead to a long, slow death of facebook – don’t expect them to be relevant in 2020), but FB culture has the hubris to believe that they can outsmart the users, that they can better decide relevance. This Pages debacle is just another manifestation of the poor quality of FB tools.
    I think that there is in fact a solution; if my working hypothesis is correct, then a good plan for the next decade would be building an identity management product. The product itself, that the user would pay for (not that it would be expensive at all), is an easy to use tool for securing, authenticating, and managing a single identity. This identity would then allow the user to easily start participating on stuff anywhere on the web. In short, my vision is to decouple the identity product from the interaction tools. When will this happen? Probably not before the end of the decade – FB has a long, slow, painful death ahead. Good news is there’s plenty of time to build the replacement and set it up for success.

    • Islander says:

      Fascinating idea. If people had a user-friendly suite of tools that would allow them to specify interests, backgrounds, and other aspects of who they are that would portable across social media platforms, I bet it would sell like hotcakes. It would give us as web users the ability to get what we want from web interactions, instead of having companies like Facebook decide what we want. Of course, you’d still need social media sites to play along, instead of defeating the tool’s portability because it would conflict with their own commercial strategies.

      • raptros-v76 says:

        Actually, FB’s intent to dominate the social media market (and its successes in doing so) means that will be easier for the described strategy to work. There won’t be any major players at all once FB dies. The whole social media thing right now is a bubble, and FB will probably outlast the rest.

  9. Having the News Feed sort order as “Most Recent” seems to make more posts visible. But, even those posts are ordered/filtered according to their EdgeRank? . . . Well, fuck. What now?

    Perhaps this isn’t an issue in the case of Facebook Group pages. But, one imagines having a Facebook Group would pose some more difficulties than having a Facebook Page. It wouldn’t really help the artist’s case if the subscriber gets pissed off and turns off notifications from the page. And if notifications weren’t enabled by default, one would have to go to the Group page every time one wanted to check for updates . . . Welp. Using Facebook Groups isn’t much of a solution either.

    Twitter feels congested (although not cluttered), and has a very restricted format for content. Google+ doesn’t seems to have many regular people – as opposed to the content creators / artists. And an artist’s blog hosted on WordPress / Blogspot / Tumblr one thinks is much less likely to be searched for than a Facebook Page / Twitter account. The same probably applies to Bandcamp / Reverbnation / Last.fm pages.
    Looking to other media of promotion, the “Official Band Website” seems to be the only option available for serious artists. Even this requires the person to subscribe to an RSS feed or a newsletter – which one most often forgoes, instead looking for a Facebook Page.
    [Disclaimer: One is making assumptions solely based on the music discovery habits of oneself and a handful of other persons of one's acquaintance.]

    There is of course Cloudkicker who just has a Bandcamp and a Tumblr blog. That’s something… (o_o )

    • Despite the recent developments brought to light, it seems like Facebook will remain significant for some time to come.
      That having been said, does anybody have any ideas for a band starting up besides “Facebook + Bandcamp” as primary media for interaction with listeners, and anything else they can think of, as supplementary?

      • Sean says:

        As one who’s been an admin for a few different band pages and helping out my own band in marketing ourselves.. not right now, no. Facebook is our HQ, but we have our bandcamp as our exclusive store (for now), but we also have a YouTube page set up to let users find us and stream our music. It’s good to have your music up there linking to your other pages and tagged with related artists and topics. Even better when other more popular users upload and share your music on YouTube (free promotion)! We also help maintain a last fm page and occasionally run ad campaigns on there (basically, paid guaranteed listens in related artist’s “radios”). We’re always on the lookout for promising new mediums, but Facebook just can’t be beaten right now. Your best bet is to start professional relationships with other page owners big and small. That way when you have an update to push you’ll have a little more reach with others pushing the updates as well.

  10. My tiny little vanity music blog White Knuckle Mustache Rides only gets from 50-100 page hits on the average day, but from the stats provided by Blogspot I appear to be getting nearly all of those hits off of Google. Now, I do cross post new blog entries to both FB and Google+, so apparently I’m getting a lot more out of those Google+ posts than I am out of FB.

    Actually, the Insights feature is not even available for me since I currently only have 11 people that “like” my page on FB.

  11. “Because Facebook believes their service will be less meaningful to you if the posts you care about the most get lost in a massive flood of posts appearing in your news feed that you care less about. ”

    FB could solve this instantly if it allowed you to create lists for your “likes” the same way it does for people in your friends list.

    For instance, I have my friends broken down into separate lists like Close Friends, Austin Area, my h.s., college, etc., but for the life of me I have no means of browsing just the record labels I’ve liked, or just the music blogs, etc. When it comes to your likes it seems FB has a vested interest in not allowing us as consumers to sort these things as we see fit.

    • Islander says:

      The “Interests” feature I mentioned in the article might be one way to do what you’re talking about. It allows you to create Lists that collect Pages of whatever types you might want. Here are the instructions again:

      1. GO TO a page you’ve “liked.”
      2. Hover you mouse over the “Liked” button.
      3. Once you (finally) get a drop down menu, CLICK + NEW LIST
      5. Click PAGES in the menu on the left side of the box that pops up, and you should see a listing of all the Pages you like
      6. SELECT all the Pages whose posts you want to see in your list (eg, band pages)
      7. Give your list a name (eg, BANDS I LIKE)
      8. PUSH DONE

      • Yeah, sorry, I hadn’t made it that deeply into the article before I felt compelled to post. Interesting that FB doesn’t make this nearly as intuitive as the friends categorization, though. What prompted me to add more friends categories in the first place was that they’d already categorized a lot of people for me – ie. local, work, school, etc – which I noticed on the left hand side of the screen.

        Why they couldn’t have set up some default categories for my likes is beyond me. The likes are already broken up into rudimentary categories on your About page anyway, why couldn’t they transfer those same categories to the left hand margin of your page? Simply having a link that says “Interests” and then leaving it up to the user to figure out what to do with it is hardly intuitive.

  12. VyceVictus says:

    …..Shit’s deep bro. My brain melted. Thanks for taking the time.

    • Islander says:

      Thank you man. I’m in so deep I’m still trying to pull my head out.

      Wait . . . I don’t think that came out quite right. My sentence, I mean.

  13. Utmu says:

    They’ll never get my wool! Muahahahahahaha! That doesn’t mean that I’ll stop using Facebook unfortunately, I need human contact in some form. Great post though, Islander.

  14. Sash says:

    Hi totally gave up reading at affinity… but. i like the way this author writes, cool sense of humour….

  15. Matthew Huntington says:

    “Why does Facebook use EdgeRank rather than just letting all posts from Pages you like appear in your news feed in the order in which they’re posted? Because Facebook believes their service will be less meaningful to you if the posts you care about the most get lost in a massive flood of posts appearing in your news feed that you care less about. And if it becomes less meaningful to you, there’s a greater chance you’ll leave Facebook altogether.”

    No, that’s not why they do it.

    They do it because sending out messages costs money, and you’re not paying for it. Sure, it might only cost 1/10c apiece, but for the monsters who have millions of fans, we’re talking real money here. If they send those to everyone, then they won’t stay in business.

    Another way to think of it is: when you ‘like’ something, that’s valuable information to Facebook. They can sell those demographics to advertisers. But when they reply, that’s worthless to them. When you send a message out to all of your fans, you don’t pay anything, and it costs Facebook money. That’s not the way to run a business.

    If I understand correctly, and maybe I don’t, the 62% and 49% numbers are mainly because people don’t log into facebook at all. They’ve left facebook or they were dummy accounts to begin with. So you don’t care if they receive your messages. If you want to send out a mass broadcast, you have to pay for it.

    I don’t have a problem with that, except for the sneakiness. Google+ will have to do it too if they are successful. Mass broadcasts are advertising. Facebook offering free broadcasts would be like a newspaper offering free advertising. It can’t work for a large publication.

    • Islander says:

      I experienced feelings of hostility toward you for spoiling my temper tantrum with such a well-reasoned comment. But then I took another drink of whisky and the feeling passed. Welcome to NO CLEAN SINGING.

    • Islander says:

      With respect to your economic analysis, I found the registration statement that Facebook filed with the SEC in connection with its public offering of stock. It includes audited financial statements for 2009 through 2011. Those show that Facebook earned net income of $229 million on gross revenue of $777 million in 2009; net income of $$606 million on gross revenue of $1.97 billion in 2010; and net income of $1.0 billion on gross revenue of $3.7 billion in 2011.

      In light of this, I’m not sure you’re right that Facebook couldn’t stay in business of they didn’t do what they’ve been doing since 2010 with EdgeRank and are now doing with Promote Posts. Here’s the registration statement:

      http://sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1326801/000119312512034517/d287954ds1.htm#toc287954_23

  16. sjfbarnett says:

    This is so infuriating, I’m seething. I would have no problem paying to use Facebook for my business if they were transparent about it. This is like those crappy ‘opt-out’ policies that take advantage of users/clients.

    One very big step closer to my business leaving Facebook forever.

    ps. Can you PLEASE not use white text on a black background? I had to quite reading before the end because my eyes are swimming…

    • Islander says:

      I also have days when I wonder why I thought white on black was the way to go, and then I remember that causing pain is a large part of our mission statement.

      • Considering how often one reads at night or in low light, the white-on-black text feels alright.
        Then again, the white-on-grey which appears on every alternate comment might be a better idea. One did feel the same kind of annoyances as being spoken of above when one used to read The Number of the Blog.

    • That’s strange, because I find white text on black much easier to read than the other way around…

  17. GojuSuzi says:

    Purely anecdotal ‘proof’, but I always ensure I have Most Recent sort on, and have, on several occasions, seen multiple Promoted Posts – all from pages I don’t like but which one or more of my friends do – scattered throughout my feed, and while my ticker shows pages I’ve liked adding posts in real time, these do not show in my feed, no matter how many times I refresh, or swap between Top/Recent modes: the only way I see them is by clicking off the ticker, or going to their page. And when I check back later, no matter how far back I go, they never materialise, meaning if I’m not actually online at my PC at the time a certain page posts, or manually navigate to their page on a daily basis, I’ll never know it was posted.

    • GojuSuzi says:

      As a follow-up:

      I’m someone who ‘lies’ a lot of pages, many of which I *don’t* want to see updates from – “check this preview! (not viewable outside the US)”, “omg we hit 5,000!”, “omg we hit 10,000″, “here’s a bunch of spam”, etc. – and I manually filter my feed by un-subscribing them from my feed while keeping them ‘liked’, so I can check them if I fancy, but don’t get my feed clogged up. Anyway, before the Promoted Posts guff started, I still found that, when I’d have a slew of page posts in my feed, some would get cut the same as I mentioned in the last post: could see them in my ticker feed, could see them if I went to the page, but would never show in either Most Recent or Top Posts feed. So there does seem to be some kind of cap on the number of page posts allowed into a feed at any one time, which is frustrating for someone like me who has already only allowed posts by pages I want to see into my feed and thus has no need for additional automatic filtering.

      This does become especially infuriating when, in addition to some pages getting ‘squelched’ by my other pages, they’re locked out because some company I care nothing for and have no interest in ‘liking’ flung a bunch of cash at FB to invade my feed.

      • Islander says:

        This certainly seems to confirm my suspicion that even the “Most Recent” sort setting is being subjected to FB’s filtering algorithms. I haven’t been as methodical in checking this as you have, but I’ve accidentally noticed posts on Pages that I visit which I haven’t seen in my news feed despite the fact that I’ve been using that setting consistently since soon after writing this post and I’ve been dogged in wading through everything in the feed.

  18. [...] June 20, 2012 · Add Comment · In Blog Posts Over at No Clean Singing there has been some uproar over the fact that Facebook has instituted a new policy trying to force people to pay them in order [...]

  19. why i am not singning in to facebook

  20. Pollcue says:

    Simple solution to all this garbage, just go to the fucking page of the band you wanna get info on and scroll through. Who the fuck has time to read every goddamn post by every goddamn band and person on your facebook anyway? Even if you were to see every single newsfeed from every band you have liked you are not gonna read them or even notice half of them anyway so this is a non-issue. The complaints are overblown and unnecessary. Want info on the band you like? Just go to their page, done.

    • This is your solution, really? You’re going to visit the page of each of the ~300 bands you follow on Facebook every day, just in case you missed an update? What if you miss checking on a couple of the bands in your daily run, or more likely, stop checking at all after a week?

    • This is your solution, really? You’re going to visit the page of each of the ~300 bands you follow on Facebook every day, just in case you missed an update? What if you miss checking on a couple of the bands in your daily run, or more likely, stop checking at all after a week?

      Also, if one is doing that, what’s the difference between using Facebook to check on bands, and how we used to do it before we had Myspace or Facebook – by visiting each band’s website?

    • Islander says:

      Yeah, I agree with Old Man Windbreaker. I follow many hundreds of bands and record labels on Facebook. There’s no way I’m going to take the time to type in the names of each one every day from a list to see what’s new. It’s true that most of the daily posts aren’t newsworthy, but there’s no way to know in advance which ones will be and won’t be, and FB’s algorithms aren’t a reliable way of separating those that are from those that aren’t.

    • GojuSuzi says:

      Ok, lets play devil’s advocate and say no one likes any bands (or films or jokes pages or what have you), only businesses which they’re interested in. Now, are you really going to go and manually check Windows and Google and Asda and whatever the hell else you’re interested in each and every day? Say no and we’ll know you’re lying. :) So if these I-might-actually-buy-whatever-they’re-slinging pages get washed away by the increasingly badly targeted “Suggested Posts”, those companies lose business. after a while, you even find that some promoted posts aren’t making it to your news feed – no joke, I have so many spam posts in my news feed that the spam posts by companies I’ve actually liked never appear!

      Companies are paying good money to Facebook to reach a wider audience and increase profits. Nothing wrong with that. But it has hit saturation, they’re now paying that money to no longer even reach the people they did when they were paying nothing for the privilege! How in any way is that a workable business model?

      For what it’s worth, I’ve all but left FB because of this nothing-but-ads system. G+ has its flaws, don’t even question that, but at least I can actually see the posts I’ve said I want to see. I only hop back to Facebook to check individual people’s pages, and leave the occassional spamipede on the spam sloughing through my not-so-newsfeed.

      Point is, they’ve not just ruined FB for the users, but also the companies who pay their bills. They really need to rethink it before it all comes crashing down; companies are not going to pay to have their posts filtered out by the most moronic algorithm in history.

  21. Old Man Windbreaker says:

    @Comment21: What’s ironic is that the site isn’t that very easy on the eyes. :P [… or is it ironic? I'm still not sure what irony is.]

  22. [...] Due to Facebook’s new policy, only about 10% of people that like a fan page will see updates LKSFLKDHF. This is so frustrating I can do nothing but mash my keyboard, sorry. If you’ve liked TTRO on Facebook, be sure to go on the page and like/comment on individual updates once in a while so you actually get my updates. The more you interact with a page, the better it is for their algorithm – meaning you will actually see more of their posts. [...]

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