Facebook changes

In this edition of The Baer Facts, I talk with Kyle Lacy of ExactTarget about two new announcements from Facebook that appear to come from opposite ends of the philosophical spectrum.

Maybe. Or Maybe Not.

Within 96 hours, Facebook made two pronouncements (I like to imagine them being made via scrolls read in a town square, preceded by trumpeter fanfare, but in reality they were simple blog posts). The first change handed down from Mount Hoodie is that Facebook will now use “content quality” as a factor in the algorithm that determines when and how much your Facebook posts are seen by your fans and beyond.

That’s right, Facebook now gets to decide what is “timely and relevant content” (from their blog post), and what is a “low quality post or meme.” Tomorrow on Convince & Convert, author of The Like Economy Brian Carter will have a complete analysis of this announcement, but in short I see this as a slippery slope for Facebook. Look, I’m not personally a fan of memes, as I think they can chip away at brand value. But if a business wants to seek engagement (to play the algorithmic game that Facebook has forced them to play), and do so via memes, is it really Facebook’s sole responsibility to judge content quality? I’ve heard the argument that Google does similar things (especially with Panda and Penguin updates to search rankings), but I view Google search results far differently from an objectivity standpoint than I do Facebook news feed that is populated mostly by things I have ASKED to receive.

Sure, Run a Contest

The second announcement is that Facebook has thrown open the doors on its contest rules, and will now allow promotions to take place within the news feed, repudiating two years of detailed regulations that helped spawn an entire industry around Facebook contest applications. Good friend of Convince & Convert Emeric Ernoult, CEO of Facebook management tool Agorapulse (I’m a big fan), wrote a detailed post on Saturday about the ramifications of this move, and when you should/shouldn’t run contests in the news feed. It’s a must-read. For small businesses looking to give away low-value prizes to current fans, relaxing these promotional regulations is a boon. 

I’m Torn. And Evidently, So Is Facebook

So, if you’re scoring at home, I disagree with one of these changes, and agree with the other. But what I simply do not understand is how these changes possibly could come from the same company, within four days?

On one hand, let’s – for the first time – get into the business of regulating content at the individual post level, making our company an arbiter of quality.

But on the other hand, let’s largely remove our longstanding regulations on contests and promotions, and take a laissez faire approach.

Does Facebook want more control, or less? I guess it depends on the day.

Facebook is the Miley Cyrus of social, desperately trying to figure out what it wants to become. (tweet this)