I think 2014 will be my last year on Facebook.
Yesterday I logged into Facebook – as is my typical morning ritual – to see what was happening in my little corner of the world.
Out of the first 25 posts in my newsfeed, here’s what I saw:
- 5 status posts from friends
- 6 posts of friends who have liked or commented on something (EG: Jim has liked a post from some random dude who I don’t know, Kate has commented on some nightclub’s photo etc)
- 14 posts from pages/businesses (4 of which I do not follow and have not liked)
I have 305 friends and like 14 pages (5 of which do not actively post or interact).
That’s 20% of my newsfeed that contains updates from ~5% of my friends list. The other 80% is irrelevant or content from pages/businesses.
What the hell….
I’ve been on Facebook since September 2008. Since then I’ve seen it change from a platform that everyone complained about because you couldn’t have animated GIF back grounds (like MySpace) into the world’s largest social platform and collector of individual personal data.
It’s always had elements to dislike, but overall it’s been a great communication platform. It has allowed me to see, almost first hand, big events unfold in friends and families lives – babies born, new jobs, moves overseas. It’s provided me the ability to stay connected with friends I’ve made while travelling the world and stay in contact a lot more easily with direct family that live overseas.
Overall, the pro’s outweighed the con’s.
The best parts of the platform is steadily being picked apart.
Now, an algorithm has defined who the most important ‘entities’ in my life are based on if I like a photo or comment on a status. And according to the algorithmic formula attached to my account, 80% of the people Facebook have determined I should hear more from are not people at all, but pages and businesses.
“On Facebook, it’s an algorithm – not you – that determines who is important in your life”
Now, I’m not a Facebook engineer, but to me it sounds like that algorithm is either severely broken or has a different agenda than keeping me in touch with my friends.
On May 12 2012 Facebook floated on the stock exchange. As is the way for a lot of private companies that become public, their business goals changed focus. Their number one priority as a business became less about providing a good social platform, and more about providing good financial results for the shareholder’s. Gotta keep that stock price going higher and higher – at any cost! Capitalism. FTW!
In Facebook’s case, that cost comes at the expense of the very thing that made the business the multi-billion dollar giant it is – users.
And the best way to monetize the 1billion+ users?
Sell a shitload of digital real estate to marketers and relentlessly bombard users with advertising.
Facebook Advertising Summary (Feb 2012 – Feb 2014)
It started with ads in the right hand side that were relatively easy to ignore and didn’t really interfere with your social experience.
- In Feb 2012 (a couple of months before floating), ads began appearing on the screen after you logged out of Facebook. No big deal.
- Then sponsored posts started showing up in your feed. Erggh, that’s a bit annoying.
- Then the organic reach of business pages was reduced, meaning now their posts were no longer listed as ‘sponsored’ but if the page admin paid Facebook a fee, they could make sure it was given priority in your feed. Damn. That’s a bit sneaky.
- Then ads started appearing from places you once ‘checked-in’ to a few years ago. WTF! I didn’t ask for this!
- All of a sudden posts by businesses and pages you didn’t even like began to show up in your feed simply because someone in your friend list had interacted with them. WTFF!
- Then came re-marketing. Now clicking on links and visiting sites will result in targeted ads being displayed to you for a maximum of 30 days every time you log into the platform. Oh C’mon!
Which leads us to where we are today.
- ~55% of the newsfeed being ads or page/business promotions
- ~25% semi-irrelevant posts based on interactions from connections – chosen algorithmically
- The right hand side filled with ads catered directly to your personal data
- A ticker of real time activity of your connections.
- The left filled with navigation and options to buy more stuff like apps, games and game add-ons.
If you’re lucky you might occasionally see something from your friends in there somewhere too.
“Facebook’s primary business goal has changed from providing a great social platform, to ensuring maximum profits to shareholders.”
But, as mentioned earlier, Facebook are a public company now. Their primary business goal is to maximise revenue for shareholders. Your friend’s update about a their crappy day at work or image of their awesome dinner doesn’t contribute towards revenue. That hair rejuvenation company will to pay $1.50 per click on their ad for baldness does though. Guess which one gets prioritised.
Really social huh…
(Fun Thought: all the above advertising options and platform changes have occurred in only 2 years. Keeping in mind that share price has to keep getting higher month after month, I wonder if advertising is going to get more or less intrusive and overwhelming in the coming months/years.)
F8 – The Facebook Conference
If the above wasn’t evidence enough that Facebook’s priorities have changed somewhat over the past few years, then the announcement of a Facebook mobile only ad platform at the F8 conference surely is.
F8 is Facebook’s industry conference. It’s where Zuckerberg and the engineers and marketers of Facebook get to talk to the world about all the things happening at Facebook.
In previous years F8 has had a focused on new features, user experience, new tech, design and social interaction that Facebook is trialling or adding.
This year however, the number one announcement at F8 is that they are launching a mobile only ad platform.
Yep, as if your mobile Facebook feed wasn’t already spammy enough with suggested and promoted posts, ads will soon be coming to your Facebook mobile app now too. Facebook is definitely putting their priorities front and center – and you being able to hear about you high school friends camping trip, or new job isn’t on the agenda at all.
“In previous years, f8 has focussed on things like design, UX, technology and social interaction. This year the key f8 announcement is about a mobile specific ad network”
Social interaction is what the platform was built upon, but ads and selling data to digital marketing jerks like me is where the company is heading.
Facebook are losing sight of the very thing people liked about the platform – the social, real life element.
Facebook has 1billion+ users because it was a place people could hear from friends, not a place to be spammed by an airline or shoe company.
Perhaps Facebook have lost sight that people are not loyal to Facebook, they are loyal to what Facebook allowed them to do. And when it doesn’t allow people to do that any more, then my bet is they will surely begin to jump ship. And if the audience isn’t there, then why would businesses bother advertising there anymore?
I don’t even think it matters if there isn’t an alternative just like Facebook for people to turn to. There are infinite amounts of communication devices and platforms now, The industry gets so caught up on the fact that something needs to replace the incumbent in order for a platform to die, they forget that if something is just a shitty experience, then people will stop using it.
In 2014 – Facebook is a really shitty experience.
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Bonus Tip: If you want to clean up your Facebook feed a little bit, remove spam and bring back more friend posts to your feed, my advice is to cull your liked pages, interests and apps. Check your app permissions and delete old, irrelevant or unused permissions you’ve granted over the years. Cutting this back to the bare minimum of topics you definitely want to hear updates from should reduce the noise a bit.
You’ll still likely get a whole lot of Facebook endorsed rubbish content in your feed, but with less pages and businesses affiliated to your profile, you’re likely to reduce it a little bit and restore more of your friends updates to your feed.