Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Has Facebook Become Too Commercialized?

Anecdotally, I have been hearing about more and more people who are using Facebook less and less because all they see coming through their news feeds are updates from businesses and pages they have “liked.” Of course, they could go in and unlike all of these things, but that’s certainly not what businesses would want them to do. Is this really a problem? Is there some kind of middle ground? What should businesses be considering so that they aren’t considered a nuisance in users’ feeds?

1. You point to an increasingly persistent problem: now that Facebook is public and faces the ever-present need to monetize its services, how does it reconcile its two audiences (users and businesses) without alienating either? In other words: how does Facebook retain the people who supply its content while attracting the people who pay its bills?

Whereas LinkedIn always has been a business-based social network, Facebook has long been seen as a personal social network—a place to view photos of your friends, RSVP for parties, and check the relationship status of your exes. Weaving advertisements about deodorant and coupons for potato chips into this mix is challenging, but critical.

2. Facebook is executing this transition slowly and strategically, nudging brands to think like people and thus deliver content that users engage with. Indeed, Facebook is following Google’s model of rewarding ads that are useful: the more an update is liked, shared, or commented on, the greater its visibility in fans’ news feed. This means Zuckerberg and his troops continue to prioritize the user experience, which is only way to sustain a company.

3. If you’re a business, you need to balance self-promotion (i.e., content about yourself) with news (content about your industry). First make your page a respected resource for pertinent articles, important tips, interesting facts, compelling photos, then start pushing out links to your products and services, case studies, rave reviews, and so on. Balance is key; you don’t want to be that guy who’s always talking about himself.