Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Why Facebook’s IPO is a threat to non-profit activism

Since its initial public offering in May this year, revenue has become a key priority for Facebook, and this is having consequences for users and non-profits alike says Madison Cartwright from CI member CHOICE Australia.  
Facebook has implemented a new algorithm to ensure that people who like 100 pages or more don't have all the pages’ posts clogging up their newsfeed. This has some obvious benefits for users who may want to avoid being bombarded with unwanted posts.

Currently, it’s estimated that a given page will only be able to reach 16% of people who have “liked” it. The page owner’s ability to get their posts on the newsfeeds of their fans depends on several factors.

First, Facebook prioritises more recent posts over older ones. This means that successful posts must be able to make a large impact within a short period of time in order to ensure a large overall reach.

Second, Facebook tries to match a person’s feed to their interests. The algorithm learns what these interests might be through a user’s actions over time. It will prioritise certain kinds of content depending on what it can learn about a user.

The positive side of this is that pages are forced to adapt their content to suit the desires of their audience. Users are better served by content that is of more interest to them. However, pages can still pay in order to increase their reach.

There are strategies that pages can implement to organically grow their audience, which mostly revolve around trying to learn what it is that appeals to their fans.

Users can also tell Facebook about pages they want to keep track of by creating favourite page lists. Pages can encourage their audience to do just that.

However, one potential drawback of this system is that it can create a “filter bubble” which isolates users from different content. People may find it harder to stumble upon interesting or new information, unless it is paid advertising.

Many non-profits don’t have the resources to pay to increase their reach. In order to ensure they have an effective Facebook presence they will need to develop strategies to tailor their content to the interests of their fans.

However, for the non-profits dedicated to enacting change, it can be difficult to create content that both appeals to the existing interests of their followers, while also attempting to stimulate new ways of thinking.

All audiences are likely to be different, so every organisation will need to take some time to learn about their followers. This requires a lot of trial and error as pages will need to see which posts do well, and which ones don’t.

The algorithm also doesn’t strictly follow a user’s interests. It prioritises updates made directly to Facebook rather than through third-party applications such as HootSuite.

It is also likely to give greater weight to Facebook content, such as videos uploaded to the site, over embedded YouTube videos.

The Facebook algorithm has both positives and negatives for consumers. But one thing appears certain - as Facebook continues its efforts to boost revenue, this will be the first of many changes.

1 comment:

  1. Great piece. Here at CI, we have noticed that content which we know our users want has been seen less and 'liked' less. So we feel the issue may be less about making relevant content and more about being compromised on the platform because we won't pay.