Incoming Facebook Changes

Incoming Facebook Changes

As promised in my “returning to the world of blogging” post, I’m here to share and discuss some of the incoming changes to Facebook. And detail out why they’re bad for businesses AND bad for users.

Facebook is no stranger to change. In the years it has been around its been overhauled more than once.

This post in the Admin Zone Forums details out the coming changes for Facebook. Click through and read it for yourself. I will be commenting directly on some of the changes in this post. Buckle in, it’ll be a long one.

Once Facebook was actually good for connecting with friends and family, and even connecting with brands and producers – writers, artists, youtubers, local businesses. But now, even before the incoming changes, it is a mess and doesn’t really allow you to do any, you know, socializing on it.

Facebook as a User

All I see, when my feed happens to be functioning, is political posts and controversial posts. I actually had to ruthlessly cull my follow (not unfriend) list to bring my feed to heel. Algorithms control what I see now.

“Most Recent” basically no longer works. Even clicking on it does not return my feed to chronological order, even though that is what I’m explicitly trying to get it to do. The other day I selected “Most Recent” and it was showing me posts from a week before. Sometimes it is completely broken and buggy.

I miss important posts from friends while shitposting from internet acquaintances fills my feed. Some friends never appear. Posts from days ago (that aren’t even getting lots of interaction) keep popping up. I don’t see events, updates or sales from businesses I interact with – though the meme pages I follow always show up. This is something I don’t necessarily mind, but that’s not the only thing I want to see from a liked page.

100% serious here, I would no longer be on Facebook if I didn’t need to be for business pages & groups and business networking. It is a source of irritation as a user, and doesn’t actually function as a social site anymore. And most of these new changes don’t seem like they’d do much to fix it.

Let’s unpack these a little bit before we move on to the changes that will affect authors, influencers, businesses, etc. Some changes coming down the line that will specifically affect Facebook users:

  • Group Admins are responsible for all group activity. If content is posted in a group that goes against Facebook’s Terms of Service (TOS) or Community Standards, admins are at risk to lose their personal profile, their business page, and their group. Admins can be shut down with no recourse.
  • Post approval process is a responsibility. Admins should have post approval turned on in groups to protect themselves from negative ratings. Questions should be asked for new joins. It’s the admins responsibility to monitor and know who they are allowing in their group.

This is putting undue responsibility and punishment on group admins. It’s already difficult to find good admins for various groups because it is a time intensive, often thankless job. Now dumping the actions of hundreds or thousands of people on their shoulders under pain of losing their account, and who is going to want to do it anymore? Post approval makes more work and slows down social exchanges. Why should I go to Facebook for a recommendation or a question if I have to wait on an admin to approve me? It completely removes the real-time aspects of Facebook groups.

  • Reduce the number of admins in the group. Again, this goes back to admin responsibility. The group admins should be you and only one or two other trusted sources.

Now take all of that above and think about it, then think about only two or three people handling it in a group with hundreds or thousands of members.

  • Links in posts can be determined click-bait, or something that flags the Click Gap Signal. The Click Gap Signal is a measuring of inbound and outbound link patterns of a site that is being linked out from Facebook. Facebook will reduce the reach of a post if the number of clicks from Facebook is higher than it is in other areas of the internet. In other words, if more people are going to your website via Facebook versus an organic Google search, your post will be considered click-bait or spam. Facebook will suppress it and/or shut down your account. While that might not be true, that’s what the algorithm will see.

This Click-Gap algorithm functionally means there will be little to no viral discoverability on Facebook. This not only affects creators, but users too. One of the nice aspects of the platform is seeing news, new products, reviews, funny videos, etc. as they come through. Sure, clickbait is a problem, but this seems to be overkill to deal with it.

  • Groups deemed harmful on Facebook will be shut down. As per the statement put out by Facebook “…we identify and remove harmful groups, whether they are public, closed or secret. We can now proactively detect many types of violating content posted in groups before anyone reports them and sometimes before few people, if any, even see them.” This is a reaction to the New Zealand Massacre. Unfortunately, some people in the romance book world are being targeted by this based on keywords found by bots. They are losing their groups and their accounts are being shut down. Hence the reason why authors need to monitor group content and understand the Community Standards.

And as for this one, well, we’ve all been around long enough to see how that can be abused. Now not only will the group get shut down, your personal account could be banned, too. Community Standards are often vague and not fairly enforced. Again, this puts more work on admins and creators to obsessively police their stuff – against standards that can be ridiculous or arbitrary, especially when a bot is involved in monitoring content.

Facebook as a Business Owner

The first big shift for me came when Facebook introduced the “Boost” option for posts. Organic reach tanked. Fewer and fewer followers were actually seeing what was being posted.

Russell and I really noticed this at our Karate dojo. Whereas posted events – guest days, belt tests, etc. – used to bring people in the door, they suddenly didn’t. Messages and calls to the dojo tanked. We’ve never reached our early levels of conversion and engagement again, EVEN when using paid advertising. It’s frustrating.

Then everyone shifted to their groups because their pages were being suppressed. For a while this worked, until Facebook started mucking about with group algorithms, too. You won’t see all the posts in a group you’ve joined even if you want to.

Some of this is just the ebb and flow of people figuring out what works and then having to do it all over again once the website changes. This happens frequently on all types of platforms, but the social media sites have become particularly bad about not delivering their original promise (a social site) in order to squeeze more money out of businesses for paid reach.

Here are some changes of particular note to authors and businesses

  • Contest, giveaways, and free downloads are being suppressed by Facebook. If you are saying “get this free” or “enter this giveaway,” those posts are being suppressed by Facebook. This goes back to creating meaningful interactions. Authors need to stop using the traditional language and start getting creative on how they post contests, giveaways, and free books if they want their posts to be seen.

Want to giveaway a free sample to potential readers? Even a free book as a magnet lead? Now you’ve got to be convoluted about it to avoid it being suppressed. Some users are giveaway junkies, too, and this is going to throw a wrench in their activities.

  • Sales posts on your page and in your group should be less than 20%. Facebook doesn’t want an abundance of “buy my books” posts because they don’t create meaningful interactions.

This should be the case anyway. Don’t spam your group members with it. But how are they going to police it? What counts as a sales post? If I post my book cover without a link and talk about it, is that a sales post or not?

  • Authors should reduce takeovers or change how they are phrased. The word TAKEOVER is being suppressed. Instead, have a PARTY, an AUTHOR GATHERING, or EVENING ENTERTAINMENT.

This is a fairly popular tactic amongst authors and other creators. You come in and interact with another author’s group for a short period of time and leave. Takeover is kind of the standard term for it now. This change baffles me a little bit. Why? What harm is it? Is it just overzealous about potentially violent language or something like that?

  • Going LIVE is no longer on Facebook’s radar as an organic algorithm piece. If you didn’t go live often before, this is good news for you. If you are one who utilized it a lot, you’ll need to find other ways to boost organic reach.

Facebook LIVE has been a thing recently since it was a way to reach your followers without paying, and that’s probably why it is going away. I haven’t found it to be particularly effective, but others have, so this is going to directly impact creators and businesses that are trying to be seen by their own followers.

  • Facebook is tracking the link funnel. This means Facebook will follow where the link is going. This could also trigger the Click Gap Signal. Authors should send people to their newsletter or their website, as opposed to Amazon or iBooks. Here’s why: Your website is controlled by you. If a reader clicks on your Amazon link, they’ll find your books, your reviews, and your bio. You might think everything on your Amazon page is completely in line with Facebook’s Community Standards (no naked covers, no foul language, no erotica, etc). However, also-boughts and sponsored books leading to another book that DOES violate the Community Standards is also being analyzed. If the Click Gap Signal happens to fall on a page with questionable content, your reach is suppressed and your ads could be denied (even if you have no control over sponsored Amazon ads on your page). What’s more, the Click Gap Signal can flag you for the reviews on your books. If a reviewer uses negative keywords, bad language, etc, your reach will be suppressed.

This is going to impact sales directly for authors. The more clicks in your funnel, the more hoops a potential buyer has to go through to purchase your book, the more likely you are to lose them. This also means that instead of linking to well known, trusted sales sites – Amazon, iBooks – you’re going to hosted sites like the Silver Empire store. While there are many benefits to this, forcing it under the threat of getting flagged is going to affect author visibility and discoverability.

  • You CANNOT tell users how to react. In other words, you can’t say things like “Love this post and…” or “Comment below and…” Those phrases will suppress your reach because they are considered engagement baiting. What you should say is something like, “Leave me a heart and…” Engagement baiting includes words like COMMENT, VOTE, REACT, SHARE, TAG.

All this shows me is that Facebook as little understanding of how marketing or people function. These are calls-to-action, requests for engagement. It’s long established that this kind of behavior increases interaction, and it seems like Facebook is going to suppress it…I would assume to force creators to pay for advertising again. If you can’t influence more comments, likes, shares, etc., to increase your visibility, the only answer will be to pay unless you’ve already got an engaged, active fan base of your page or group.

  • Newsfeed is shrinking. Stories are merging with the newsfeed. Messenger is being favored. Take the time to look through all the available options in Messenger. Messenger is soon going to be separated from the desktop, meaning it will be its own entity. WhatsApp and Messenger will be contained and can be used for direct selling. Remember, Facebook is moving to “the future is private.”

You can no longer update stories with con appearances, new covers, or anything you might have wanted to show your followers and have it automatically appear at the top of the screen. Another tiny possibility to use your organic reach stymied by Facebook.

  • Sharing is not caring. Sharing from your page to your timeline/newsfeed is against the Terms of Service. By dropping your page link in a Sharing is Caring post, you are putting yourself at risk to have your account shut down. Sharing posts made on a page you are the admin of is also a no-no. Facebook wants page content to stay on the page. However, if a reader (a non-admin of your page) shares a post from your page, the complete opposite happens. This boosts your ranking in the algorithms. Facebook views this as positive content because a reader cared enough about the post to share it. If someone comments on that readers shared post, you get an even higher boost.

Honestly this is the most egregious one for me. Friends and family follow your business page, wanting to support you. Or readers who are your friends on Facebook follow your author page to learn about new releases!

Will they see it? Probably not.

So can you share it on your personal page so your friends and families can see it?

Nope.

So how are you supposed to use this social media site, except just to post it straight to your own wall? I realize a lot of this is to help with spammy authors or businesses, but they’re crippling person-to-person interaction with this. And making more work if I have an announcement on my business page that I want friends and family to see. In a specific example, if our dojo closes for the day because of weather, we share the update to our page because students are more likely to see it there than from the business page. It also limits the number of new followers I can get from my personal feed and their friends, who are much more likely to buy from me than random strangers.

That’s a basic summary. Again, all the changes came from this post. Click through and read the whole thing.

So what is Facebook? Should we even be able to market and sell on it at all? That’s a fair question, but as long as they are selling ads, it isn’t going to be something its users can escape from. It comes with the platform now, and they’re never going to give up that cash cow.

They’re drastically limiting organic and personal ways of reaching out to people, leaving only the paid advertising as an avenue, all the while pushing the idea that Facebook is about connections.

Do some authors spam everyone and not use the platform well as a way to connect? Because that’s really the only way you should be using it. No one buys cold from Facebook if you just fling their book at them. You should interact with fans, post updates and interesting things, and occasionally remind them that you have books for purchase.

Yes, it’s abused or used poorly by some. But cutting off the ability for people to interact and sell in a way that isn’t obnoxious or straight up sales at the knees isn’t exactly a winning strategy either.

It’s frustrating as an author. I genuinely want to be able to interact with fans and find new readers without having to bait them into sales funnels or to off-site links (which are also being suppressed). So what point is there to it? I’m honestly considering completely gutting any sort of organic, interactive plans for the platform. The group and page followings I’ve worked for years for can’t be utilized in any way unless I pay Facebook at this point, and in many cases the ROI is small or non-existent, so I’m just tossing money down the drain.

And now unless you have endless amounts of money to spend testing and running ads, it’s becoming almost impossible to boot-strap your way to success. Or at least boot-strap your way to a little extra money so you can then turn around and put that into ads to grow your following.

The gates for using social media as a means to drive your business are closing unless you’re willing to pay. Which, honestly, you will have to do at some point unless you just strike it lucky somewhere. But clamping down on organic growth and reach is only going to strangle what’s left of Facebook while harming the businesses that pay it, while not actually fixing anyone’s user experience.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult even now just to completely write off Facebook, ESPECIALLY from an advertising standpoint. The groups and pages may end up so crippled after this update that they’re not worth your time. But they still have one of the biggest, most accurate ad systems to date, and you’ll probably need them just for that.

So, in summary, they’re not offering what users actually want (which part of is to interact with pages, authors, actors, organizations in various ways) and limiting its use as a platform for those organizations, while stealing everyone’s personal data and manipulating interactions to optimize (usually) negative reactions. That’s not a winning strategy for any business, much less a site that’s supposed to be a social media platform.

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