Is Facebook for business now a waste of time?

This witty blog post from a US company makes a very good argument against investing time and money into Facebook.

Graph for Is Facebook for business now a waste of time?

Meet Eat24: It's a young, hip online food delivery company in the US.

It gets the internet. More than a few youth-oriented Australian companies could learn from its digital marketing strategy.

It's writing blog posts with clever, memorable memes, and in doing so, focusing its content to its target audience and using all of the popular social media networks to help push its work and promote its brand.

Well, all but one major social network.

Less than a week ago Eat24 gloriously announced in a rather witty, food pun-ridden blog post that it was quitting Facebook. It wasn’t an empty threat either. A couple of days after publishing the post, the company deleted its Facebook page. That’s right, this tech savvy firm quit the world’s largest social media service.

Why? Well, as Eat24 explains in its post:

The bigger picture issue is that we can’t trust you [Facebook]. You lied to us and said you were a social network but you’re totally not a social network. At least not anymore ... It makes us think all you care about is money. Why should we have to wade through a dozen promoted posts about how to lose belly fat (are you trying to tell us something?) and requests for Candy Crush (NO! Just no.) and suggesting we like our arch nemesis’ page (seriously, WTF) before we can finally find the perfect Doge meme? It really seems like you’ve lost your way and have become nothing more than an ad platform.”

Time for some context: earlier this year Facebook changed the way companies and pages promote content across its site in order to encourage the distribution of what the social network calls “high quality content”.

To decode the jargon, Facebook is basically looking for page managers to write more graduated, respectable posts. It also wants managers to post to Facebook in a timely manner.

In the process, the social network has cracked down on what it considers to be 'low quality content' -- largely, internet memes and posts that ask for likes and shares.

Long story short, in one swift algorithm change, Facebook killed Eat24’s strategy, which used memes (like the one below) to push its brand across the platform.
Graph for Is Facebook for business now a waste of time?

The incident raises a rather pivotal question about Facebook: Why should any business invest time and money into a platform that can change the rules at any moment?

Yes, Facebook has been around for 10 years and yes, most major companies are already significantly invested in it. But some smaller players are still having doubts, or at least that was the vibe coming from the first ever Social Business conference in Melbourne last month.

Most sessions at that conference were followed up with the question: “How do I convince my [insert C-suite executive here] to allocate budget and resources into social media?”

And the typical answer from the speaker: “You need to convince them that social media is an investment.” This is true. But it seems Facebook’s continual shifts are making that investment harder to justify.

And if you are going to invest in social media, you would be foolish to at least not consider Facebook. It has around 13 million users in Australia, and at the conference the social media giant revealed that use of Facebook now accounts for 13 per cent of the average Australian’s total media consumption.

The majority of the uproar about Facebook’s shifts is coming from digital marketers in the US. As Eat24 pointed out, the major sticking point in the debate is the idea that Facebook is shifting to limit organic traffic and encourage brands to invest in paid posts and paid referral traffic.

Local Facebook marketing specialist Lucio Ribeiro agrees that Facebook is trying to raise its revenue with this tactic, but doesn’t believe that this strategy against memes is such a bad move.

Riberio, a partner in Facebook marketing firm Online Circle, argues that marketers want Facebook to mature as an advertising channel, and allow for sophisticated campaigns that genuinely interest and target the social network’s users.

But they also want Facebook marketing to remain free, and want to be able to use budget tactics, like memes, to drive engagement and web traffic. They can’t have it both ways, he says.

There’s an argument that Facebook is simply following the same path as most marketing and media channels. It started off as a budget offering, providing mass reach but minimum returns.

Now it’s attempting to mature. It’s asking marketers to commit more resources to its platform in return for what is expected to be greater results. And not just on paid posts, either -- those “timely”, “relevant” posts that Facebook now favours will require companies to invest in staff to maintain their social platforms rather than tack the work onto the marketing manager’s role.

It’s a long-term move that’s aimed to position the platform as the next major driver of online ad spending.

But one can’t help but think this will have another effect: to weed out those companies that want to be on Facebook, but don’t want to invest in it.

Got a question? @HarrisonPolites doesn’t want to talk to you on Facebook, but you can leave a comment below or contact him on Twitter.

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