Facebook to cut back on promotional posts from newsfeeds

Facebook doesn't seem to be worried about losing advertisers. Their announcement last Social Marketingweek regarding newsfeeds just made everything official for business owners: no more freeloading.

Well, actually they said it was the users themselves who are saying they don't want promotional posts on their news feeds. And Facebook being the user-loving social network that it is, readily heeded their request.

Starting January next year, posts from brands that their algorithm deem as too promotional won't make it to any feed.

According to Facebook's survey of half a million users, they would rather not have 'promotional' posts cluttering their newsfeeds. Apparently, users complained of many junk posts in their feeds and asked to see more updates from their personal friends on that space instead.

"What we discovered is that a lot of the content people see as too promotional is posts from Pages they like, rather than ads. We're responding to what people want to see," Facebook said on its blog post.

Obviously the average user would prefer to see more content from their friends (the reason they signed up in the first place) but this spells bad news for brands on Facebook.

"It's a clear message to brands: If you want to sound like an advertiser, buy an ad," said a media analyst from Altimeter Group.

For the last 2 years, they have been tweaking the algorithm which is responsible for choosing what a user sees in his/her feed, in a bid to cut back on 'junk' posts. So this is yet another blow for businesses who are just getting used to the EdgeRank (the algorithm that decides which supposed organic posts of a brand will eventually show up in a user's feed). If previously they were highly doubting whether their posts ever reach the eyes of users, now they are sure they won't.

Fortunately, the announcement came with some guidelines on what their algorithm will deem too promotional:

- posts that just push people to purchase something or install an app

- posts that entice people to enter sweepstakes and other promotionas with no real context

- posts that just rehash the same content from advertisements

As a result, companies will obviously be obliged to avail of Facebook's advertising system. Talk about subtle arm-twisting. It won't be a surprise if their ad prices suddenly increased, too. (Case in point: In the last quarter, Facebook reportedly increased their ad revenue by 64%, ergo their ad prices also increased by 274%, compared to last year's prices.)

Companies might get skeptical that Facebook could be deliberately pushing them towards paid ads -- and no one could blame them. It's is rather hard to swallow that the expected increase of ad revenue is just a very fortunate side effect.

Facebook vice president Brian Boland insisted that these changes, contrary to popular belief, are simply to make their users happy and not to rake more profits from the expected increase of ad revenue.

So if Facebook is nudging brands away from organic posts to traditional advertisements, does this mean users are going to get bombarded with equally annoying adverts? The rest of the Facebook users might find assurance in their statement that "this change will not increase the number of ads people see in their News Feeds."

Facebook seems to be moving farther away from social marketing and turning into a place to buy traditional advertisements. If so, then it's too bad as it will surely stifle creativity in doing subtle social marketing.

They might mean well for the users in general -- they want to give users more pictures of their friends' dinner and family trips, we get that -- but what about those users who are deliberately keeping tabs on businesses? Surely they're not going to be forced to endure personal pictures of their 'friends' when they came there to hear from companies?