Dear Facebook, May I Have My Audience Back?

Posted by on Feb 25, 2015 in Blog, Opine | 4 Comments

1984_Facebook

Back when I created my first Facebook fan page “The Wilkinson Gallery” I did not have many followers or “likes” as they are now called. Those who did generously like my page were able to see my posts in their feed when I chose to share something.

In the time since something strange has happened. A large portion of my audience is now being prevented from seeing my posts. This phenomenon is not really “strange”, not a technical glitch and is certainly not an accident. It is called “throttling” and it has become common business practice for Mr. Zuckerberg and company over the course of the past few years.

While I struggle to market myself and share my work with the world, the idea that I am intentionally being blocked from reaching my audience continues to bother me. So, I decided I would write about it and get it off my chest.

So, Where’s my Audience?

Anyone who has created a “fan” page on Facebook probably realizes this is happening as it is now “par for the course”. Maybe you don’t and have been wondering why so few people have been viewing your posts. Others who may be considering creating a page to promote themselves, a product, independent film or small business may not have even considered this limitation.

One would assume that if someone takes the time to “like” your page that means they want to stay informed about whatever it is you are promoting, saying or selling. By clicking that “like” button they are basically saying “hey, I want to know more about this and welcome their posts to appear in my time line”.  If you are really lucky they may even share it with their friends. They call this “organic reach”. This is the way it is on Twitter and the way it used to be on Facebook. Not any more.

Back around 2012 or so, the brain trust at Facebook decided they would throttle your organic reach and only let a small percentage of those who like your page actually see your posts. According to this article from Marketingland.com, for pages with less than 500,000 likes the number of those who will see your posts can be as low as 2%. If you want the rest of those who liked your page to see your post, well then you have to pay for that by “boosting” your post. Sounds fun at least.

I’ve read a number of lame excuses from the folks at Facebook as to why they have gone in this direction. I think my favorite is the suggestion that they are doing you a favor by reducing the amount of stories that appear in your feed so it is not too many. According to them it could be as high as 15,000 potential stores. Countless stupid game invites are apparently fine but not something I chose to see. Gee, thank you Facebook. So much for freedom of choice. Don’t people have the ability to block posts if they feel as though there are too many for their liking? Can’t they simply un-like the page if there are too many ads or posts for a particular business? Perhaps there are people who enjoy 15,000 stores in their feed to scroll through. Frankly their excuse does not hold much water with me and I see it strictly as a cash grab.

Now I am not unrealistic. I do realize that Facebook is a business. While it may not have started out that way, it certainly is now. A BIG one. They have to find new ways to generate revenue and a profit. After all it is not like they are a tech company who puts out a shiny new phone every 6 months and charges you hundreds of dollars for it. They basically give their product away. As a result, Facebook is one of the most used sites on the internet with millions of potential viewers / customers worldwide. That is a huge audience and they are the gatekeepers. Access to all those eyeballs has value and they should charge for that… under certain circumstances.

What I do not understand is the single-mined, one size fits all heavy handed approach to what they have done. For instance, I am an individual artist who is trying to reach those people who thought enough of my work to say “I want to stay informed” by liking my page. To date I have 942 page likes. I have worked hard for them. While I deeply appreciate each and every one of those likes, that is not many compared to large corporations like Coca-Cola who currently has 93,971,020 likes or Taylor Swift who has 74,627,821. I understand charging them. They can afford it and stand to make millions off of what they are selling.

My Suggestions

I consider myself to be a reasonable person so I am here to offer some reasonable solutions.

Option A: Instead of treating every page the same, why not lower the bar for the little guy? Perhaps draw the line at a specific number that’s appropriate. 5,000? 10,000 page likes? That is negotiable. Point being if you have less than that, clearly you are not an “A List” celebrity or national brand with huge advertising budgets who can afford to pay to reach their millions of viewers. Let those below that threshold reach all of their audience. Would that hurt their bottom line so badly? Why not help the little guy grow to a point where perhaps he can afford the advertising.

Option B: As it is now, everything I post is subject to this throttling. Even if I am just saying hello. Should I have to pay for something like this or my sharing an old drawing on #TBT? That’s just silly.

So how about this? Differentiate between an ad and a post. Only throttle my post if I am actually plugging something for sale that I potentially will make money on because at that point it really becomes an ad. Again, even this seems kind of ridiculous given that I have less than a thousand likes but as I said, I am trying to be reasonable. If I may directly make money off the post then throttle it. If not then don’t.

I know they have the ability to differentiate between the two if they wanted to. Can’t tell you how many images I have not even been able to even pay to boost because they say it has too much text in the image. Even if it is part of the art. By Facebook law text can only take up a certain percentage of the image because they want it in the body of the post. That’s another complaint I have which I’ll save for another day. Point being they could do it if they wanted to.

Option C [for the rest of us]: While my previous two suggestions are directed at Facebook, this one is directed at everyone else. Instead of creating a fan page, create a “group”. Once people join your group everyone who is in the group can see everything you post and everything anyone else in the group may post or share. The downside is it does seem a little more friendly and less intimidating to “like” a page than “joining” a group.

That’s all Folks!

In the end, Facebook can really do whatever they want with their site. Its a free country. They provide a powerful tool that has been invaluable to me as an artist. I recommend every artist have a page. As a result they have every right to charge what they do. It is my choice to use it or not. It is my choice to pay or not. No one is forcing me. In addition there are other free options on the net to reach an audience.

I just think they could be a bit more supportive to small businesses, filmmakers and individuals trying to market themselves. Let me reach my 900+ followers. Would that be so hard Mark?

©2015 The Wilkinson Gallery, LLC.

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4 Comments

  1. Stephanie
    April 6, 2016

    Hi, I found your site by researching about Fine Art America. Then I saw this article.

    But before I saw this article I checked to see if you were on Google+ for your photography. And you’re not.

    I love Google+ for my photography. I get the most engagement on there. I can’t stand Instagram. It’s the worst for photographers. You can’t zoom in on pictures and worst of all, they fuck with your aspect ratio. I was on PicsArt before Google+

    Reply
    • David
      April 8, 2016

      Don’t use Google+. Have enough social media to juggle with Facebook, Twitter (which I rarely get on), Instagram (which I also rarely get on) & LinkedIn. Google+ just did not have the audience that Facebook has by comparison so I never felt tit was worth the time or headache. plus Google has all my accounts so screwed up from my days of using YouTube before they bought them. I had 3 different YT accounts which means I now have three different YT accounts. While i may have decided to use one e-mail address for a YT account as a matter of convenience that did not mean that I wanted a Google account tied to that one which I now have by default so it is a complete mess.

      I digress. I agree on Instagram. I hate that it always has to be a square format image and I really hate that I cannot manage it from my desktop computer. I do not have or want all my artwork on my phone or tablet to upload which is a big reason why I am rarely on it.

      Dave

      Reply
  2. Stephanie
    April 7, 2016

    Oh. And idc about ppl printing my photography or taking screen shots for wallpaper. If I post publicly it’s what I expect. But I would not like it if someone made money off my photography. I can’t believe that guy took your image and sold ties.

    Reply
    • David
      April 8, 2016

      Ties are only one of the things I have seen my work printed on. Have also found it on shirts, they were printed in a newspaper poster giveaway in Argentina (I think that is where it was from), I have found them actually being sold as art / prints, Cel phone cases and more. It is so frustrating and maddening. I recently found someone posted an image of them all printed on one big banner for someone’s birthday party which was then shared on KISS’s page / site.

      As you said, to a certain extent I do expect some people to use them as banners for their Facebook pages or perhaps re-designing them for various non-commercial things. I only ask that people credit me if they do. It is impossible to stop that and if the person is not benefitting financially from my work then I suppose it isa compliment and benefits me if people at least know who the artist is.

      Dave

      Reply

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