Facebook, your brands strategy is screwed

I am not one of those people who hate the idea of Facebook making money. But in its latest attempts to make money from brands, it has lost its way.

Sponsored brand messages are interrupting, confusing and pissing off my friends.

And the brands have become so obsessed with getting “likes” for their posts, they’ve mostly stopped saying anything relevant.

Today was the final straw though. It dawned on me that the more brands I choose to like on Facebook, the less likely my friends are to see my own updates.

Which means I’m going to have to start unliking brands. As others realise what is going on, I suspect they’ll do the same thing.

facebook suggested pagesThe issue is that the algorithm quietly changed a few weeks back. Now, somewhere towards the top of the news feed, users are offered a “pages you may like” section.

It feature brands that your friends have previously liked and invites you to do the same. The placement is paid – and can be based on an action months before, a point that most users tend to miss.

The confusion was demonstrated quite well when I took a holiday last week. I’m delighted to report that I managed to go completely offline – no phone calls, no email, no internet whatsoever. Yet my colleagues were demanding to know when I got back how come I’d been busily liking brands such as Telstra, Meat & Livestock Australia and even Colonial First State while I was supposed to be forgetting about the world of marketing.

Of course, I had liked those brands at some point – probably months before. But my colleagues – and reasonably social media savvy ones at that – got the impression that this was something I’d done that day. Confusing perhaps, but no harm done, or so I thought.

Until I got this email from a friend today:

facebook brands

The email that turned me against liking brands on Facebook

So in other words, he got pissed off with seeing the Colonial First State mesage, but when he tried to mute it, it offered him instead the chance to change what updates he sees from me. So his only way to see less spam from Colonial First State is to choose to see fewer genuine updates from me.

Unless of course, I unlike Colonial First State. Which I just have. I guess the other 249 brand pages I liked are going to have to follow.

There’s another thing going on.

condescending brand pageWe’ve written about Condescending Brand Page before. Facebook decides how many messages to show consumers from brands based on how well liked and shared previous posts have been.

Which is why brands have become obsessed with messages about “Like this if you’re glad the weekend is coming”, just to improve their reach.

But of course, that’s pretty pointless if they never actually talk to consumers about anything relevant to the brand.

As a brand page owner, we get trapped in the same thing. If we boringly tell our readers about the best stories we’ve posted, they may well click it, but they aren;t likely to like it.

heston reach

The Heston penis effect

But if we go off topic and put a funny piece about Heston Blumenthal’s head looking like a penis in an unfortunate photo, our reach soars. I’m not sure what it really does for us as a brand though.

heston facebook

Once in a while, I guess it helps you stay up in the algorithm, but too many brands now refuse to post anything that consumers won’t engage with – inane or otherwise.

A few weeks back, I was at a breakfast presentation from WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell. He argued that Facebook will never be as profitable as Google, because people don’t want their social conversations to be interrupted by brands. At the time, I wasn’t sure I agreed. But actually, I think he’s right.

To make money, Facebook needs a brand strategy. This one isn’t it.

Tim Burrowes



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