Facebook: Scam Artist

Stop me if you’ve heard this one…

“Gain 500 likes! Just use our service!” or maybe “Click here to read how to get 1000 followers!

If you’re like me, you hear that, laugh at the silly scammers, delete/block as spam, and move on.

But … what about when you get this in your notifications:


That’s not spam, it’s not a scam*, and it’s terrifying to consider. Facebook is sending me, as a ‘page’ owner, a suggestion that the only way to increase my likes (i.e. my presence on Facebook), is to pay them.

Greed is Good

I need to stop and tell you that I have absolutely no problem paying for things. Facebook provides a free service, and if they want me to pay them to promote my wares above and beyond the word-of-mouth business I’m doing, that’s awesome! Same with Twitter. These are business, and I’m totally copacetic, no, I’m totally in favor of paying them for above-and-beyond. Do I, as a user, like those ads? Generally no. But do I, as a business, appreciate them? Hell yes!

And there in is the line between the goals. As a user, my goal is to do what I want without a hassle. As a business, my goal is to get users to interact with me to convert them into users on my site, and thus profit like an Underpants Gnome. The reality is, of course, not that simple, but as we like to say, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. The dichotomy of social media is never more apparent then when I want to put on my business hat and try and evaluate the usefulness of any marketing campaign.

Blackmail is Bad

There is, however, a major difference between being “greedy” (asking people to pay extra for extra things) and what Facebook is actually doing. You see, Facebook intentionally throttles you. Facebook stops a large percentage of your traffic from reaching the people you follow. I wrote that a year ago, and guess what? It’s still true. So what they’ve done is create a false economy. This is not like virtual gold farming, where I pay someone to mine for junk on a game, and turn around and sell it at a higher price. That actually makes a certain amount of sense in an open economy. Instead, Facebook is creating a situation where your hard work is absolutely meaningless, and the only way to get what you want is to pay.

At least with Gold Farming, if I wanted to put in the time and effort, I could see the same results.

Director of Product Marketing for Facebook, Brian Boland, told TechCrunch back in 2012 that their behavior of only letting 12% of people who follow your business see your post isn’t bad, because “… there are pieces of content you create that are interesting, and there’s some that are not.” (Your Average Facebook Post Only Reaches 12% Of Your Friends – TechCrunch, Feb 29, 2012.) I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t make me happy. Someone else is deciding if something I said was interesting or not?

Viral is Voted On

facebook-adsThe way we expect social media to work is like this: I make a post, people who follow me like it and repost it via likes or retweets, so people who follow them see it, read it, and the circle continues. So to many of us, it’s outright galling to hear that Facebook has always decided what is and isn’t ‘interesting’ and promoted your crap accordingly. Essentially they’re using Edgerank to decide if your content is worth sharing. The catch-22 of course is there is a practical limit to how organically you can increase your Edgerank score. That means to get higher, you have to pay, and now we’re back to blackmail.

Now I, as a user, can change my feed to sort by ‘recent posts’ and not ‘most popular.’ And I, as a business, can write ‘more engaging’ posts and get my engagement (this is a technical FB term) up. I can get a pretty high engagement by posting at the right target audiences, and using catchy titles/content (which I do anyway). But it’s unclear, to say the least, that these things are happening! Had I not read the first article about the 12%, I wouldn’t have known to look for the others and see this was always the case and how to ‘fix it.’

By the way, I don’t think requiring a user to make a change is a fix, I think that’s a cop out. Also that change resets every time you log in, or reopen your browser. Just like the chat setting I turn off every other week. Clearly Facebook ‘knows best.’

Expectations are Engineered

This reminds me of a story my friend Yesenia Sotelo (of SmartCause Digital told me: Why Charity Engine Quit Facebook. When I read that article, I was amazed that they had ever treated Facebook like an email list. You see, what they used to do was send a message directly their followers about news and services, using Facebook messages as their page. After all, people opt in to liking your page, so only people who wanted to communicate with you would do that, right? Nope!

We want you to connect with your fans in the most effective way possible. That’s why as of September 30 you’ll no longer be able to send updates to fans using Facebook Messages. The best way to make sure your content is seen is to post it on your Wall so people see your updates in their news feed.

Interesting how that’s not ‘effective’ isn’t it? That’s right up there next to Facebook telling me they know what content of mine is interesting before any human gets to interact. I don’t believe their AI is that smart. Popularity is not just math, it’s got to do with the pulse of reality as well as the flavor of the day. Release your product on the same day as a natural disaster? Poor timing, and you probably won’t be as ‘interesting’ as the time you release your new Dodgers themed product the day they clinch a playoff berth. Those aren’t things you can bank on, of course.

Truth is Terrible

The truth is this: Trust no one.

Facebook’s bottom line is not yours. Neither is Google’s or Twitter’s. If, for now, your goals align with theirs, then great. But remember you’re not their audience, you’re their prospective customer, and you get what you pay for with them.






3 responses to “Facebook: Scam Artist”

  1. Saku Mättö Avatar

    You’re right on the money with this one. And that’s why we all run WP sites 🙂
    There we are king, not FB or Big G…

  2. The Allegiant Avatar

    Great Post. I’ve been wondering if the same is being done to your “followers” on your regular profile. I’ve started just adding the “follow” button on my sites that go directly to my personal profile. I now have about 500 friends and 16,000 followers and I get WAYYY more engagement then on a FB fanpage with 20,000 followers.

    1. Ipstenu (Mika Epstein) Avatar

      @The Allegiant: To a degree. Part of how FB is goofing your profile followers is by making it harder to view “Most Recent” posts. I ranted about that here – https://halfelf.org/2013/why-i-hate-facebook/

      Basically they still think they know what I like better than I do. 🙄

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