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The solution to your Facebook woes: Stop being a whiney douchebag

To all the brands whinging about Facebook no longer showing their posts to all their fans – remember that the Zuck owes you nothing.

thomas scovell facebook edgerank changesApparently Facebook is  screwing small businesses by showing their page posts to only a small portion of their 'fans'. This is, of course, because Facebook wants those bereft brands to start buying promoted posts to reach the rest of their audience.

Except this isn’t the case. Yes, Facebook wants to sell more advertising – it wants to monetise the platform it has spent millions of dollars developing and which it allows consumers and businesses to use with no (financial) cost. It’d be a cheap bastard indeed who thought there should be no value exchange involved.

But what I’m seeing posted about this purported change is entering conspiracy theory territory. All Facebook’s tweaks to EdgeRank of late are showing is that your supposed fans, who Liked your page, were never really fans.

Admit it to yourself – you bought most of your Likes didn’t you? You ran a competition, had a Like-gate, offered an iPad in exchange for a couple of clicks. And now you’re surprised that these same people, who were more interested in a freebie than your business to start with, aren’t receiving all your posts about you?

Think of yourself as an individual using Facebook now, not a business. In the past six months are you reading much more Facebook than previously? Probably not. How many new pages have you liked? 20? 30? 50? How many new friends have you added? A dozen? More?

So what does Facebook do when you pull up the app or open your stream on the desktop? It looks at your behaviour and figures out which stories you’re most likely to be interested in. Otherwise, with your growing set of Likes and friends, you’d be increasingly overwhelmed with new stories. Stories of potentially low relevance that would obscure the more interesting ones deeper in your stream. And hey, if you do want to see everything posted by everyone, you can always click on 'most recent'.

Stop asking fans to add you to an interests list

A colleague recently told me about an issue his mother-in-law was having with Facebook. They’d had a new child recently and naturally, this meant his wife was posting more often as she kept friends and family updated on the new baby. It turns out though, his mother-in-law wasn’t seeing them all. Now this guy had seen George Takei post about the issue with Facebook restricting how many people see posts and George had included a tip about adding a page to your interests list. His mother-in-law had tried this trick… and it worked!

Except the instructions George had given were bogus. So it couldn’t have. “But, but”, my colleague said, “George Takei has two million fans, he must know what he’s talking about”..He’s a hilarious dude, but he doesn’t.

If you just try and follow the instructions for doing this that are popping up everywhere, and pay attention, you’ll see they result in absolutely nothing. To add someone to an interests list you need to complete a number of steps not given. And lists aren’t for this purpose anyway…

But even if the instructions are bogus, the result seems to be that the missing posts start appearing in your feed again. So in some way, it works. But how? It isn’t in the attempt to add a user or page to an interests list, it is the mere act of visiting their page.

Facebook looks at a number of engagement signals to determine if you are interested in a person or a business. Whether you Like, share or comment on their pages are prime ones, as is whether you visit their timeline rather than just passively waiting for their posts in your stream. It is a pretty clear signal that if you’re looking at someone’s page you are interested in seeing everything they’ve posted lately.

So when my colleague’s mother-in-law visited his wife’s page, she sent a clear signal to Facebook that she wanted to see more of her posts in her stream. Facebook acted on this implicit signal. Implicit signals are both more accurate, and less effort for a user, than forcing them to have to explicitly say who they want to hear from lots.

What does this mean for businesses? Stop posting to your fans about being added to their interests lists. It will, inadvertently, work short-term for some people but will eventually wear out as they fail to engage with your posts.

1) Only people who already showed they were interested in you would see this post anyway

2) They’re not going to do it if they don’t really like you anyway

3) You look desperate and whiney

The only solution

The only real solution to this 'problem' is to stop being whiney and douchey. To admit there is a difference between a Like (uppercase L – someone Liking your page) and liking (lowercase – someone actually being a fan) and concentrate on creating great content that your fans will respond to. The more people who do, the more Facebook will go, "hey people are loving this post, let’s see how more people respond to it".

Stop buying Likes and fooling yourself that your high count is anything more than a factor of a giveaway and admit most of those people were never likely to become advocates or customers in the first place. Concentrate on those who will.

Fire your social media douchebag and tell him to take his little bag of tricks elsewhere. As a business owner, marketeer, or agency for one – do what you can do well, create great stories and exciting content (and experiences) about your business. Spend the effort on that not on the tricks. For all of Facebook’s problems – it has actually created a platform that mostly rewards that.

Now Like this post so you see more from me.

Thomas Scovell is director of digital innovation at Clemenger Group in Wellington. This post originally appeared on Social Media NZ