Facebook: "Broken on Purpose?"
I've been doing a little research on social media these last few weeks (working on an article for our sister mag Print + Promo, "Can Social Media Marketing Help You Sell?"), and I came across a somewhat alarming, downer of an article:
I recommend reading the whole article to get a hold of the finer points, but here's the basic gist: About a year ago, Facebook altered how items show up in people's feeds. Among other changes, it drastically reduced how often people see news from fan pages. A debatably well-intentioned move (theoretically people prefer to read stories from people they interact with a lot rather than something they don't, though this isn't perfect logic), the change also provides a huge incentive for brands to start dumping money into paid Facebook advertising in order to regain their lost value and reach.
I find some of the reasoning in the article a little specious (some complaints I think are more coincidence than conspiracy, others are either about benign failings or are just silly, like complaining about "Words with Friends"), but I'm more of a "social media enthusiast" rather than "expert," so I'm not super-knowledgeable about the networks' financial structures, publishing demands, stock and shareholder pressures, all that fun stuff. Also, other points in the article are so accurate they're almost understated, such as the one about blogs and news sites knowingly pushing through false stories just to generate traffic. So overall, I think the articles thesis of social networks becoming corrupted or corporate influence/the need for cash is more-or-less spot on.
It's a shame because two of the biggest appeals of social media marketing were that it was free to use and an effective way to reach customers directly. With both of those qualities in jeopardy, how long will these platforms hold value as a marketing platform? Will corporate demands totally kill the effectiveness of Facebook and other sites, or is this all much hype over nothing? Is the golden era of easy online marketing over, or is it just going through yet another change?