Facebook Makes It Harder (Again) for Brands to Advertise for Free(▼)(▲)
November 14, 2014
Kurt Wagner, writing for Recode:
Facebook is cracking down on brands trying to share ad-style content with their followers, unless, of course, they pay for it.
Facebook says the move is intended to create a better News Feed experience for users who don’t want to see ad-like posts from brands on top of the ads Facebook already shows you. But it’s likely going to anger brands in the process, many of whom spent years building up a following for this very purpose. Why would Coca-Cola pay Facebook to promote one of its posts when it already has 90 million users following its updates?
Facebook is essentially changing the game for advertisers, who were originally encouraged to build up their “Like” totals on brand Pages so they could share content without needing to pay for reach. Many brands actually paid Facebook for “Page Like” ads over the years, which exist specifically to build up these very audiences.
Now, Facebook is saying that building up an audience — whether you paid for it or not — doesn’t mean you can share ad-style content for free.
Normally I would be happy about anything that's going to decrease ads on my timeline, but in this case I'm on the other side of the fence. The ads Facebook is now disallowing are the only ads which users have actually opted into. By liking a brand's page on Facebook, users are expressly saying that they want to see the content, including ads, from those brands. That's an extremely valuable opportunity for brands with large followings, which is exactly why Facebook is moving to shut it down.
If Coca-Cola, to continue using Wagner's example, wants to advertise on Facebook, their ads are far more likely to result in purchases if they are sent to people who have already expressed some amount of interest in the company. Of course it is also useful for Coca-Cola to pay for ads so they can reach people who have not already made it clear that they buy Coke products, but if paying were the only way they could advertise I bet they would pay a lot more.
Looking beyond giant companies like Coke though, what about the small businesses that cannot afford to pay huge sums for Facebook ads? Until now they could get at least some advertising for free by sending it out to people who have liked their page, but now Facebook has the power to block these posts if they seem too much like real advertisements. (On that note, how does Facebook decide what is an ad and what isn't? Seems like most things companies post could be construed as ads.)
This move just seems like another money grab from Facebook. They don't care about users, they don't care about companies. They might be disguising this as trying to look out for users by inserting less ads in their timelines, but really they're just taking away the last bit of choice that users have in what ads are thrown in their faces.