I recently attended a monthly meeting of the Social Media Club of Fort Worth. The majority of those in attendance at the meeting handled their company's social presence or worked for an agency handling social media for other companies. The changes to Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) and how they affect businesses and fan pages were a key topic in what turned into a good debate.
If you are not aware of the changes Facebook implemented, here's a decent summary from Mashable:
It has removed the "Top Stories" and "Most Recent" links on the top of the News Feed and replaced it with a smarter feed that adjusts content based on the last time you checked. If you haven't been on Facebook for three days, it will pull out the top stories from your network. This means you won't miss important relationship status changes, photos or big life events.
If you're a more frequent visitor of Facebook, your News Feed will be filled with more recent content in chronological order. The social network is also giving you the ability to tweak the top stories in your News Feeds by marking or unmarking updates as a "Top Story."
The main feeling was that these changes would greatly affect their ability to market to those they had easier access to before. And while I don't disagree that there will be some impact, I have to question the problem with the process.
I know, I know. I'm a businessperson; I'm supposed to be all for the greatest access to customers that I can get. But there's something in me that just can't accept that as the best way of doing business. Maybe I'm an out-of-age child of the social revolution. Maybe I inherited some old-school values about personal space; you can choose. But the bottom line is that the social phenomenon is built on one thing: Choice.
In essence, the changes that businesses are upset about are put in place to make Facebook a more targeted experience for the user, showing you what is most relevant first and leaving the less intriguing for further down the page. And if, as a company, you don't make it into this top tier for the Facebook user, maybe you should remember that people don't first get onto Facebook to connect with companies, but instead with people. I believe MySpace lost its edge because it forgot this simple fact. Maybe Facebook is making sure it doesn't follow the same path.
Eventually, users will warm to the change, and businesses will adapt to make use of the system. It's the way -- we've seen it before, and we'll see it again. If you think this is the last time Facebook will change its stripes, then I have news for you.
Thumbs up or down?
But as a business, how do you deal with the changes? The same way you always have; by staying informative and relevant. If you weren't doing this, then people weren't reading your messages to begin with. I was reading an article by Jay Baer about part of the Exact Target Social Media Series called "The Meaning of a Like." The article was titled: "The Real Reason Your Customers Don't Like You on Facebook." And though the title was surprising, the statistics were even more disheartening. Here are the findings:
- Only 32 percent of people have ever Liked a company on Facebook
- The average Facebook user Likes only 9.8 company pages
- Thirty-nine percent of people who do Like a company on Facebook do not view the Like as permission for that company to market to them in their feed.
From a business perspective, these stats are staggering. Think of the scope for a moment. Only a third of people on Facebook Like companies -- and those who do only Like about 10 -- and many of them do so just to add color to their profiles. That says a lot about the mindset of a Facebook user and about the businesses that are vying for their eyes. It says that people do not exercise the Like freely, but instead choose their circles in earnest. This might be from years of seeing pointless ads from careless businesses.
Or maybe, just maybe, it might mean that they consider Liking a company on Facebook a grander expression of their support than we realize. What about you? How many companies do you Like on Facebook? And how much thought do you put into pressing that one tiny little button?