Apart from the obvious user experiences that make platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter unique (Twitter for micro-blogging, Instagram for images), there is a key difference, not immediately obvious to many that separates Facebook from the others.
Facebook want to mimic and enhance your real life.
Whilst it’s definitely true that platforms such as Instagram and Twitter are being used by people to enhance their existing real lives, these platform providers aren’t actively taking measures to ensure that a users account mirrors their real life interactions anywhere close to the extent that Facebook is.
I believe that the answer to why Facebook takes this approach lies in the fact that Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg is a psychology major, not a computer science major as many would assume. In fact, Mark was already an established computer ‘prodigy’ by the time he enrolled at Harvard and his focus on psychology had strongly shaped his views about what makes a social platform powerful.
Mark and the Facebook team believe that the power of social media lies not in just giving you a space to create a new online identity, but rather, a place to enhance your already existing real life identity. Facebook believes that the platform that takes this approach will be the most useful to the user due to the heightened level of trust we afford our real life social groups.
What Facebook Wants
How Facebook integrate business into their platform is a battle being fought literally in front of our eyes, and while Facebook needs (and wants) us to voice our concerns over their innovative tactics, the conversations around these concerns would be much more useful to them if users understood Facebook’s goal, and why this is their goal.
First and foremost, Facebook want people using its platform. No people using Facebook means no desire for businesses to be there either. It’s hard to believe the amount of people out there that seem to think that the highly educated minds at Facebook are overlooking this glaringly obvious fact.
Secondly, Facebook needs money.
To successfully run and maintain an international platform like Facebook at the high standard it currently enjoys is expensive – extremely expensive!
$83,000,000 per month expensive (2012)!
The Facebook functions we take for granted everyday such as messaging, notifications, updates, photo, video uploads and data storage don’t just happen. Computer engineers build them. Some of the best computer engineers in the world and if Facebook don’t pay them a lot of money to do so, another platform will, most likely Google+. The demand is there, and thus the supply is provided.
The platform that employs the best minds in the business will gain you as a user because you will love all the functions they conceive, develop and provide you. Unfortunately, this won’t stop most users complaining about the platform trying to make money off them.
Next time you want to complain about an advertisement appearing in your news feed, maybe you should thank the advertiser instead, for financially supporting the platform you choose to use day in and day out.
Of course Facebook wants businesses on its platform. We users need businesses to be on this platform. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to take Economics 101.
What Facebook Doesn’t Want
Facebook doesn’t want people leaving the platform. Simple.
Like I said before, no users on Facebook means no businesses on Facebook. No businesses on Facebook means no money to run Facebook. You get the picture.
Unless you would like to pay for a yearly subscription?
I didn’t think so.
The arch-enemy of a great social media user experience is something us data nerds like to call ‘noise’.
When we say ‘noise’ in social, we are referring to information that appears in your news feed that has zero relevance to your current needs or desires. Your cousin’s updates about her cat that you dislike, your high school classmates picture of their coffee and of course, advertisements.
Facebook understand that just as in our real lives, whilst we may have a large social circle that we are happy to be connected to and occasionally interact with, our immediate interest lies with only a small group within that circle.
This is a real life social phenomenon that Facebook works hard to ensure remains intact on their platform. Whilst we still desire light contact with them, constant news from members of your outer social circle makes the experience less real and more importantly, fatiguing. Switching users off.
What The News Feed Algorithm Does
The News Feed algorithm looks at our interactions on Facebook and uses this information to decide if a Facebook friend is currently a close friend of the user. I like to think of it as ‘acquaintance curation’.
The algorithm also looks at our engagement with different types of content and once again, uses this data to determine what type of content we would want to appear in our feeds.
It assists Facebook in achieving its goal of enhancing your real life whilst minimising the ‘noise’ that will spoil your experience.
How This Affects Your Business
World-wide, the average Facebook user follows 30 pages. Each page on average is posting 36 times per month. Not only is your business competing against a users friends and family for space in their news feed, they are also competing against all the other brands the user follows.
Believe or not, this is a huge plus for your business.
Facebook’s focus on user experience means that its users aren’t turning away from the platform, giving your business a popular place to identify and engage them, no matter how big or small your budget is.
Your poorly thought out techniques for promotion using social media are kept hidden from your fan base making your business work harder to improve your marketing efforts. Your assumptions about what your fans want to hear from your brand are put to the test and the post engagement results will help you to develop content that your audience wants you to produce.
The playing field is leveled meaning that Joe’s Burger Shack posts have just as much chance of appearing in a fans newsfeed as a post by McDonalds does (If the user is a fan of both)! Successful marketing of your brand now has less to do with budgets and more to do with your ability to know your customers and their interests.
This blog is not a ‘how-to master’ Facebook algorithm piece, that will come. Rather, it’s a wake up call to those who are so quick to criticise Facebook for using such an algorithm. The algorithm is vital to sustaining a strong Facebook, who is providing your business with a platform for highly targeted engagement and promotion, the likes of which we have never seen.
Dane Kloos is a ‘Successful Doctor’ and Community & Content Manager at REBORN.