Facebook pushes brands to pay

18 November 2014

MENLO PARK, CA: In response to users, Facebook is to reduce the number of promotional posts that appear in their news feeds from brands whose pages they have 'liked'.

The company announced that from January it was introducing "new volume and content controls for promotional posts, so people see more of what they want from Pages".

According to the announcement, as part of an ongoing survey, Facebook had asked "hundreds of thousands" of people how they felt about the content in their news feed and discovered that users wanted less promotional content – meaning fewer promotional posts from Pages they liked rather than fewer ads.

And Facebook also highlighted three particular types of post that people found annoying, including those that simply pushed people to buy a product or install an app, that pushed them to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context and that reused the same content as ads.

"Most of the stuff we listed, like sweepstakes, probably doesn't fall in the category of great content," Brian Boland, Facebook's vice president for ad products, told the New York Times. "We're responding to what people want to see."

Rejecting a suggestion that Facebook simply wanted to make more money from advertising, he said that "an ad maker doesn't want to serve content to people who don't want to see those posts".

The volume of material now being published means that some users could have up to 15,000 new items to see, so Facebook's algorithms are already filtering content to the detriment of brand posts, whose organic reach is estimated to have slipped to somewhere between 2% and 8%.

As the Wall Street Journal noted, advertisers will hardly be surprised by this latest development but they "have to be pretty annoyed that they spent all that time worried about accumulating lots of fans, who now they have to pay to reach".

But Jan Rezab, chief executive of social media analytics firm Socialbakers, said the focus on quality was correct. "Brands with high-quality content, like Red Bull, or ones with high engagement, like Harley-Davidson, will still reach their fans," he said.

Data sourced from Facebook, New York Times, Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff