Facebook promoting paid links by suppressing post visibility?

Is the social networking giant controlling visibility of posts and trying to compel users to use its paid features to promote posts?

By Kul Bhushan Published Date
04 - Mar - 2013
| Last Updated
04 - Mar - 2013
Facebook promoting paid links by suppressing post visibility?

Facebook has been making various efforts to increase its revenue from its services. In the recent past, the company has introduced various 'paid' features, particularly aimed at the businesses, such as 'Promoted Posts.' However, it has emerged that the Social Networking giant might be controlling the visibility of posts, and compelling Pages owners to pay hefty fees to the company in order to boost the visibility of their posts.

Facebook last year introduced a new feature called Subscribe that allowed users to subscribe to others' feed without being friends. New York Times columnist Nick Bilton has made some interesting observations about Facebook's alleged suppression of posts.

Bilten said he garnered a healthy "subscriber" list of about 25,000 people soon after the introduction of Subscribe. He began sharing his weekly column on the Facebook, and received a good response with nearly 400,000 subscribers, and thousands of likes on his posts.

He says that of late however, a sharp drop in the number of Likes and Shares was noticed. He averaged just 30 likes and two shares a post.

Bilten tried to experiment with Facebook's Promoted Posts feature, and paid the company seven dollars to promote his column to his friends. After using the company's sponsored advertising tool, Bilten noted a whopping 1000 percent surge in the interaction on a link. Facebook also sent him a message that 5.2 times as many people had seen his post after using the pay to promote feature.

“This may be great news for advertisers, but I felt slightly duped. I've stayed on Facebook after its repeated privacy violations partly because I foolishly believed there was some sort of democratic approach to sharing freely with others. The company persuaded us to share under that premise and is now turning it inside out by requiring us to pay for people to see what we post,” he noted.

Facebook, however, has a different take on the matter. "The two aren't related; we don't have an incentive to reduce the distribution that you send to your followers so that we can show you more ads," Will Cathcart, product manager for Facebook's news feed is quoted as saying.

"The impact ads are having on engagement is relatively low, and we're really pleased with how low that is. Over time, we've shipped a number of changes to our algorithm that may cause content to go up or down. We don't feel we're anywhere near done on making that algorithm work well."

Facebook's Promoted Posts

Bilten's observations may be true to some extent, as the “Pay to Promote” feature does up the visibility of the post. The criticism, however, says the visibility of the posts should be organic and the interaction should be on basis of how the interesting the content is. We have seen several Pages asking users to add them to 'Interest List' in order to get all the updates.

Interest Lists

Forbes' Kashmir Hill in her report on Facebook's roll-out of pay to promote feature said: “Sorry, Facebook. Not going to happen. My account is a blend of personal and professional, and I certainly do post Forbes articles there that I hope my friends and subscribers will read, but I’ve always let that happen organically and don’t plan to change that practice. In fact, I’m having a hard time thinking of anything I’d post to Facebook that I’d pay a nice dinner’s worth to promote… Perhaps a plea for donations to the Kashmir-wants-to-spend-the-year-hiking-through-the-wilderness fund.”

Promote an important post

Zdnet's Emil Protalinski in his report said: “...my Facebook friends get to decide if my latest status update is important enough for other Facebook friends to see. If I post something boring, it doesn't get promoted as much because fewer people Like it, comment on it, and so on. If I post something interesting, more people engage with it, and thus more people get to see it.”

James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research and author of the book "Digital Disruption," says: "Certainly Facebook has changed its policies and adjusted its products in order to squeeze as much revenue out of all of the openings of the business model in a way that they didn't have to do before they went public. It's very possible there's now a giant pendulum swinging within Facebook, where every division is under pressure to find revenue and advertising solutions."

Here's a video where Facebook explains how its Promoted Posts feature works:

Do you think Facebook is suppressing posts and compelling users to use paid features? Let us know in the comments section below:

Source: Times of India