Apr 052014

I’m feeling a bit hammered this morning, because I got more than a bit hammered last night (I have a bad habit of throwing caution to the wind on Friday nights). The silver lining to the cloud in my head is that I’ve found it’s best to write about Facebook when I’m already feeling miserable.

Last month I made myself miserable by exploring recent reports that Facebook had begun tweaking the algorithms they use to determine what users will and won’t see in their Facebook news feeds, reducing the reach of Page posts to 1-2% of the people who have liked those Pages. This appears to be a not-so-subtle effort to incentivize Pages to pay Facebook in order to reach more of the users who follow them.

After I published that rant, a reader named Katy sent me a link to a video, and the video is what prompted this addendum. It makes me want to spit. To be more precise, it makes me want to hawk up something nasty from my lungs and spit that, because garden-variety saliva just doesn’t adequately express my combined feelings of disgust and depression.

The video has been around for about two months, but I hadn’t seen it before. It was made by the people who run a “science video blog” named Veritasium. It’s a widely watched YouTube channel, with about 1.3 million subscribers. I haven’t tried to independently vet the accuracy of this particular video (see above re being hammered), but it’s consistent with other things I’ve read, and the narrator makes a pretty persuasive case.

In a nutshell, he makes these points (among others):

Some Facebook Pages have been paying “click farms”, mainly located in developing countries such as Indonesia, The Philippines, Egypt, and India to “like” their pages. The narrator gives an example of one click farm whose employees will give you 1,000 likes for $70. This is old news, but still disgusting. It’s also counterproductive, because those paid “likers” do not “engage” with what a Page posts, but their presence means that even fewer people who legitimately are interested in a Page will see what the Page posts.

Facebook forbids this practice and has made some efforts to stop it — because Facebook wants Pages to pay Facebook in order to generate likes. This is done by advertising your Page — and it’s clear that running ads on FB will lead to more likes.

But what the video demonstrates is that even when you pay FB to promote your Page, a high percentage of the new likes will still come from people employed by those click farms who will not engage with your Page, and no more than a tiny percentage of the people you really do want to reach are going to see what you post. But Facebook doesn’t have much incentive to remove those likes because it would be admitting that paying Facebook for ads generates phony followers.

And so your only real option — having already paid Facebook to increase your likes through advertising — is to pay them again to promote your posts, in an effort to reach people who genuinely do care about what you’re up to. (“Promote” is the word Facebook used to use for this revenue stream. Now, the option you get as a Page admin to increase the number of people who see your posts from that 1-2% margin is called “Boost Post”.)

The point of all this learning is pretty obvious: If you pay Facebook to advertise, you’re a rube.

You may wonder why I care about this scummy shit. NCS has a Facebook page for which I’m the administrator, but I’ve never once paid to advertise it and never will. (At this writing, we have almost 7,700 FB followers, but we have reached that number through very gradual natural growth over the years since we started the page in December 2009.) The vast majority of bands and labels whose work we cover at NCS don’t pay to advertise either, mainly because they’re broke and/or because it doesn’t seem true to their underground mentality.

I have paid Facebook to promote some specific posts (e.g., when I have wanted to thank people for following us or when I have wanted more than a tiny percentage of our followers to see a new song or video premiere that I’m excited about), but I’ve done that less than a dozen times and I sure don’t intend to make it a regular practice.

So why do I care? Because even though Facebook doesn’t give a shit about blogs like this one or metal bands and labels — because we’re not a meaningful source of revenue for them — all of FB’s business strategies discussed in the video screw our ability to stay in touch with the FB users who genuinely are interested in what we’re doing. And the only thing I know to do about it remains what I suggested at the end of my last rant.

With that long preamble out of the way, here’s the Veritasium video:



  1. JB says:

    I saw this video a couple months ago. It is safe to say i’m making my own websites…

  2. djneibarger says:

    i heard about this a while ago. my wife and i had a good laugh over the idea of using a similar service for my band page since it would bump my followers from 38 to 10,038 overnight. how funny would that have been?

  3. Doug says:

    That is insane.
    I said it last time, and you mentioned it on your post the other day. Everyone should use RSS feeds for anything they love.
    Setup a feedly account, or some such feed aggregator, and get an app for your device. Then subscribe to feeds. Done.
    Oh yeah, your rant only reached 1-2% of people who cannot do diddly about the DullEdge algorithm and you got that for free. lol you should pay so some Egyptians can like that shit, also they are going to like Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga and get paid get laid.
    Seriously man don’t waste your time on facebook crap. I bet it’s all true and they are giving your money away. I’d channel that cash into getting your feed propagated to every source somehow.

    • Islander says:

      I think I’ve spent a grand total of about $50 on Facebook over 4 years. And I agree that for sites like this, an RSS feed or something similar is the best way to find out when new posts appear. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help most bands, because most bands don’t have web sites. And even for those who go to the trouble of setting them up, it’s not a very convenient way to interact with fans.

      • Doug says:

        I wonder if there was a hosting service that was specifically tailored to musicians or bands. Perhaps there was a template, you follow the wizard, and bam you got a website.
        Sometimes when promoting your songs you use soundcloud. So your songs would be on soundcloud.
        I wonder why soundcloud doesn’t actually make their site go that next step and create that kind of full website experience.
        It does take a bit of knowledge and time to setup so perhaps it’s like a setup now and pay later kinda service.

        • Islander says:

          You have a good idea, but I have no idea whether there is any kind of site-formation service tailor-made for bands out there, or even anything like that within the big blog platforms such as WordPress and Blogger. Unlike Facebook, it also costs money to maintain a blog or other independent web presence.

  4. Chronic_Headache says:

    one more reason why I don’t use facebook

  5. glue sniffer says:

    As a facebook user I find that I see pretty much all the posts I want to see by choosing not to Like organizations with the spending power to override the things I really care about.

    • TGLumberjack says:

      ^This right here.

      Also, all you really have to do is select the “Get Notifications” setting for any page (or the “Close Friends” setting for any person) that you really care about, and then you’ll automatically see everything from those sources. Sure, it means that you might get 50+ notifications per day, but as long as your turn off your phone notifications then who cares? I don’t even bother really looking at my News Feed anymore, I just click through my Notifications to see everything that I want to see.

      • Islander says:

        I keep forgetting about this work-around, but I’m not sure how helpful it is if (like me) you follow many hundreds of bands, labels, and other blogs. In addition, I think there’ some numerical limit on how many notifications FB will load when you check Notifications (it’s something like the last 30).

        • TGLumberjack says:

          In regards to loading notifications, I recently spent a week out of the country without internet and when I returned and logged into Facebook for the first time I had 99 notifications. Those 99 notifications went back chronologically throughout the entire week that I was gone. I left on 3/9, and returned on 3/15, and I got notifications from as far back as 3/9, so I don’t think that any got left out.

  6. Leperkahn says:

    Facebook continues to be more and more depressing. That’s about all I can say on the subject.

  7. Lord_Farin says:

    This kind of thing always induces one of the following two in me:
    – Visions of myself performing a scimitar rampage in some mall or other public place;
    – A lethargic misanthropy so tombstone-heavy I must really restrain myself to not break out in loud cries of anguish and woe for our depraved race.

    Which — or so I’m told — is pretty bad when one is still to reach 25 years of age. People also like to laugh about my genuine frustrations and generally eloquent venom and vitriol. On the other hand, it’s a sign that I still care. Not all is lost; glimmers of hope eventually emerge. Time will learn if they will be overrun by the washing tide of stupidity, egocentrism, ignorance and general retardation.

    In the mean time, a good dose of Dyscarnate’s “The Weight of All Things” at full volume alleviates the most urgent woes. Might listen to some Crom, Insomnium or Warlord if the mood continues. Their lyrics are fitting of my current state. All-time favourite might be Insomnium’s “The Bitter End”. Just go and listen to it now, e.g. here: http://songs.to/#!pl=8f446bbc3101b10b7bf5b8a650849d171de374f8.

    Perhaps I got a bit sidetracked there. Oh well, just tell me if it triggers some recognition. What is it that infuriates you?

    • Islander says:

      Since you’re in a certain kind of self-medicating mood, I might mention that we will be premiering an official video for a new Insomnium song on Monday morning. 🙂

      • Lord_Farin says:

        Good news for sure — that helps. To those worrying about my sanity, I can say that finally (although I needed the full 65:54 runtime of it) blasting the undeniable brilliance and bright gem for years to come called The Path of Apotheosis (for those sadly unaware as of yet, this is the 2014 release by Inferi — go listen NOW) allows me to go to sleep with a smile on my face.

  8. Vinter says:

    it sucks big time, facebook has been for quite some time a nice medium to get news from the bands and blogs i like and now it’s turning to shit. i dont even care about the “social” features of facebook to be honest.
    but you should promote the “get notifications” feature more and perhaps even create a twitter account, a lot of people use it.

    • TGLumberjack says:

      And there’s a pretty easy way to set it up so that anything you post on Facebook gets tweeted, or visa-versa…I forget which.

      • Islander says:

        Yes, one of the comments in my last rant pointed out that you can set things up so that tweets appear automatically as Facebook posts. I’m just still viscerally reluctant to expand any further into social media, and although I’ve never been on Twitter, it strikes me from the outside as kind of… brainless.

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