Is the recent Facebook announcement worth fretting over?

A few days ago Mark Zuckerberg made an announcement that Facebook is going to refocus news feeds away from brands and towards friends.  I’ve watched the ripples permeate throughout the Internet Marketing industry for the last few days, partially with a sense of bewilderment.  Here’s what the Facebook fella actually said:

So was he really calling the death knell on businesses using Facebook to drive traffic to their websites?  No, I don’t think he was.  There’s no immediate need to panic.  For one thing organic post reach for non-personal pages on Facebook as been diminishing for a while.  Years in fact.  This latest announcement from Facebook may seem alarming to brand owners and professional marketeers but it’s potentially a very savvy move to ensure the longevity of Facebook.

We’ve seen other social networks come and go over the years, most notably MySpace.  The reason I draw attention to MySpace is that it partially died off because the news feeds, as such as they were, became a sandstorm of spam and non-contextual chatter.  Facebook don’t want companies to use their pages as a klaxon, they want us to use our pages to interact with people.  Some people may say that on-network interaction is more favourable to Facebook because it keeps the conversation happening actually within the Facebook realm, rather than leading people to your own website for the ‘real’ interaction to happen.  I think that while there may be some truth in this it’s worth considering the fact that Facebook still makes a good chunk of income from delivering traffic to your website via paid advertising.  They just want you to start the conversion on Facebook.

Some more sceptical people in the Internet Marketing industry might throw up their hands, claiming the fact Facebook is favouring personal interaction over brand announcements is proof they are only interested in delivering visitors via paid means.  But I think this potentially misses an important point.  Mr Zuckerberg’s announcement confirms something that we’ve known for a while; Facebook want us to interact with our clients and customers on their platform.  They don’t want brands using Facebook as a social cosh to force people to buy stuff.  Facebook want us to interact in meaningful ways with the users on their network, not beat them about the head until they buy something.

I’ve read a lot of Internet Marketing copy over the years that claims social networks have changed the way we sell.  Instead of blasting out nuclear strength marketing campaigns we need to tell a story, engage with potential customers and get them feeling fuzzy about our brands.  In my opinion this has always been the case, or at least it has for at least the last hundred years.  When social got big it may have appeared that we had a short cut to a better world, but the reality is that ‘doing good marketing stuff’ is rewarded just as well is it always was.  In terms of reach, Facebook are making it clear they favour content that inspires interaction.  They are just telling us all, yet again, that in order to make the most of social networking you need to speak to people like they are humans.

My interpretation of the news above is that if you interact well with your customers on Facebook then your reach won’t shrivel.

If announcements about diminished reach trouble you, have a look at the way you communicate through your social networks.  Are you screaming your message in your outdoor voice, or are you inspiring interactions?