Facebook has received its fair share of criticisms from just about everyone that has ever used the site, be it for social advertising or checking in on the activities of friends and family. There are many theories out there that explain why Facebook is so often doubted by the masses, but one thing is for sure; the company is successful. Up there with names like Google and Twitter, Facebook is probably the best known website among consumers. In the past few months, it had seemed like criticism of Facebook had dulled down quite significantly, as the company gave people more and more to look forward to. However on Sunday, Nick Bilton of the Wall Street Journal wrote an article covering some issues that Facebook is now presenting.
Essentially, Bilton reported seeing decreasing engagement numbers on his personal posts. He claimed that these lower engagement rates were the result of Facebook shoving back the organic content posted by users to allow more room for Promoted Posts. This way, the company would be able to generate substantially more revenue for itself.
I recently tried a little experiment. I paid Facebook $7 to promote my column to my friends using the company’s sponsored advertising tool.
To my surprise, I saw a 1,000 percent increase in the interaction on a link I posted, which had 130 likes and 30 reshares in just a few hours. It seems as if Facebook is not only promoting my links on news feeds when I pay for them, but also possibly suppressing the ones I do not pay for.
Facebook proudly informed me in a message that 5.2 times as many people had seen my post because I had paid the company to show it to them. Gee whiz. Thanks, Facebook.
These claims are heavy, potentially giving Facebook a sort of greedy and money grubbing reputation. Although it is simply the case of one man’s experiment, the results are shocking. Of course though, Facebook was quick to respond to these claims in a post in their Newsroom, called “Fact Check.” This was their response;
There have been recent claims suggesting that our News Feed algorithm suppresses organic distribution of posts in favor of paid posts in order to increase our revenue. This is not true. We want to clear up any misconceptions by explaining how the News Feed algorithm works.
First, in aggregate, engagement – likes, comments, shares – has gone up for most people who have turned the Follow feature on. In fact, overall engagement on posts from people with followers has gone up 34% year over year.
Second, a few data points should not be taken as representative of what actually is happening overall. There are numerous factors that may affect distribution, including quality and number of posts.
This is exactly what anyone would expect as a response to such claims of course. Regardless, it seems that in this case Facebook has been wrongly accused of something huge. I suppose this just goes to show that just because one person says something, it does not necessarily make it a universal fact.