Facebook algorithm stops people seeing content they subscribe to – unless brands pay

High profile Facebook users are growing increasingly frustrated at what they see as the social network gaming the system in order to encourage people to pay to promote their content.

It comes after changes  throughout 2012 to Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, which dictates what brand content appears in followers feeds.

Back in October last year Jeff Doak, head of social measurement at WPP owned ad agency Team Detroit, blogged that Facebook had overnight quietly destroyed “half the value of your brand page” after he measured a 40-50% decrease in organic reach for content.

Then in November Dallas Mavericks basketball team owner Mark Cuban Cuban tweeted that Facebook was possibly ‘blowing it’ with the EdgeRank changes:

This irritation led to Cuban and his staff looking at other ways to promote his sports franchise, and he told Business Insider:

In the past we thought we were creating a value opportunity by encouraging fans to Like our brand pages. While there is still value, because of the costs and the way posts are cycled through FB users news feeds, both the like and post have diminished in value.

He said he preferred Twitter, as content could be seen without being game by an algorithim.

You might have thought that by the start of 2013 Facebook would have addressed these concerns. It appears not. Yesterday the New York Times’ Nick Bilton blogged that despite his Facebook subscribers rising to 400, 000,  over January the columns he shared with saw very limited interaction.

That was until he paid $7 with the sponsored advertising tool.

With the promotion paid for, Bilton than got a “1,000 percent increase in the interaction on a link I posted”. You may well ask what his problem is. Surely the point of a paid for promotional tool is to increase interaction? Shouldn’t Bilton have been more annoyed if he had paid his money and not seen a significant improvement?

Furthermore, UX designer Martin Belam points out that one of the key features of the EdgeRank algorithim is “that the chances of people seeing your post depend on how often they have interacted with you, how interesting other people have found the post so far, and how old the post is.” 

He also points out  that “if a user never interacts when they see their content again, do they really want their news feed and attention taken up by something that doesn’t appear to be interesting them?” A perfectly sensible opinion, particularly as Belam points out that Bilton’s large following was developed on a platform someone else built and he uses for free.

Bilton’s issue though is that content he shares seems to get held back on Facebook until he pays. People have chosen to subscribe to his feed, but may not be seeing everything he posts, content that they have opted in to see. If, as Belam points out, people get bored with the content, they can choose to unsubscribe.

It is people though, not an algorithim should not make that decision.