Is Facebook still free?
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Is Facebook still free?

Facebook logo on 100 dollar billThe answer to that question is, in short:  Sorta.  Kinda.  Maybe.

This week, Facebook announced a new feature for Facebook Profiles (individual users–people–not Facebook Pages for brands/organizations).  Users now have the option to “promote” their posts, meaning that more people are likely to see them in their feeds.  The cost of doing so, per post, is $7.00.  This is actually not all that new, unless you’re from the United States.  Facebook has rolled out this feature to 20 other countries already since May.

Now, this news should not actually affect any libraries who are using Facebook properly.  It’s against Facebook’s Terms of Service to be using profiles (meaning, people can friend you, not “like” you).  If your library has a proper Page, you may wonder why this even applies to you.  Here’s some thoughts about why you should be paying attention:

What does this mean to me, Laura?

  • There is a complex algorithm that determines what gets seen on a user’s feed.  This algorithm, called EdgeRank, already discriminates heavily in favor of visual (e.g., photos, videos, graphics) content over text.  It also discriminates in favor of friends/pages that the user engages heavily with. Chances are, the people who “like” your library on Facebook are not actually heavily engaged with your library in terms of liking or commenting on posts.  This means that most of your fans will never see your content.  (Especially if your content is like that of most libraries, where it’s just promoting programs and such…but that’s another post, or you can read a book about this poor use of social media.)
  • Getting your library’s posts seen in someone’s Facebook feed is already difficult, and your library’s reach has already decreased since September   I don’t think the use of promoted individual posts (Really?  How many people are going to spring for seven bucks a post?) is going to take off, but it puts one more potential barrier in the way.  If someone has friends who take advantage of this capability, that’s one more way your content won’t get seen.
  • This fundamentally changes the nature of Facebook.  Facebook is now what many would call “freemium”–free to use, but you have to pay to get the good stuff.  This one feature change may do more to drive users off, in the long-term, than any of the constant privacy issues or interface redesigns.  Facebook might claim to be always free, but it appears that free is now very relative.  While Facebook is still “the place to be” for most demographics (but not all!), I am forced to wonder if this will accelerate potential decline.  One blogger also noted that this change verges on extortion:  pay Facebook or your content doesn’t get seen.
  • Business/brands can also promote posts, but it works somewhat differently.  To learn more, read here.

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