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All stakeholders of the Web and more and more brands have their eyes firmly fixed on Google and its algorithm. The reason being that Google is the gateway to the Web of the largest number.
Being on the first page in response to a Google query has become essential to brands if they wish to emerge. Being number one is the grail everyone dreams of. Google is the place to be.
Unfortunately, the rules that Google uses to rank the sites, for a better or less good positioning in response to queries from Internet users, are growing in number, are changing more frequently and most of all are increasingly opaque. And when the efforts made to optimize the natural referencing of a site are not enough, the purchase of key words may then be necessary.
In short, the business model of Google was conceived for Google to earn money!
The whole story of the relationship between Google and brands is a coherent game for the brands to bluff, to find a way around the algorithm of the search engine, to understand its logic and evolution for adapting their sites for better referencing. In contrast, Google’s strategy is to push brands, sooner or later, towards paid referencing by finding a way around their strategies for natural referencing.

All stakeholders of the Web also have their eyes focused on Facebook. Here, everything changes. What was a game with Google is becoming a kidnapping with Facebook. Let us go back to a brief story of this company for a moment.

Act I: enter Internet users

• Scene 1: Facebook is created to enable friends to connect with each other.

• Scene 2: Facebook experiences an increase in the number of users as never seen before.

  • Scene 3: Internet users become principal stakeholders of the story narrated.

Act II: enter brands

• Scene 1: brands, agencies, professionals assume that Facebook is a means they should use to communicate, raise awareness of their products, develop their brand image, etc.

• Scene 2: Facebook invites brands to create fan pages on Facebook, free of charge. Brands follow. Businesses create their fan pages or entrust the task to agencies. As for Facebook users, a large number of them become fans of the brands on Facebook.

• Scene 3: the brands welcome this new captive audience made of fans and hasten to regularly address “advertising” messages to their fans via their fan pages. The brands become the principal stakeholders of the story narrated.

Alright! So what?

So what?

So, in the story we forgot that Facebook, in the same way as Google, has an algorithm whose rules are growing in number, are changing more frequently and most of all are increasingly opaque. It is called EdgeRank. Three is the magic word. Here is the third act of the story. The rest of the story is sadder for the brands.

Act III: Enter EdgeRank

• Scene 1: The truth is that when a brand addresses a message to its fans, EdgeRank is configured to deliver it to only 50% of its fans. Why? Because Facebook protects its users from spam and that if we received 100% of the messages which are sent to us via Facebook, our email boxes and our Facebook accounts would explode.

• Scene 2: Each time a brand sends a new message to its fans, Facebook’s algorithm observes their reaction. Did they read the message? Did they transfer it? Did they click on the Like button ? Etc, etc. Based on the behaviors observed, Facebook’s algorithm plans to send future messages of the brand to lesser fans (40%) or, alternatively, to more fans (60%). In other words, the brands which bombard their communities of fans and for which Facebook records behaviors liable to decrease the Edge Rank condemn themselves to really writing to a lesser number of fans.

• Scene 3: brands realize that they are prisoners of a space; it is hard to leave a place where your own fans, sometimes tens of thousands, in some cases even more, joined you and continue to discuss with you.
Moreover, brands also understand that they have to continue maintaining this fan page, located in an environment (Facebook) ultimately of pretty low quality, hard to control, sometimes unpredictable, far from pushing the brands to the top, comparable to low end TV channels…
Then, the brands also wonder what they can do to really reach 100% of their fans.
At last, brands also become aware that precious sociodemographic information and especially behavioral information related to their fans are held by Facebook.

Story unfolds:

Facebook returns to brands to propose solutions, paid ones this time. After inviting brands to provide it with a major asset free of charge, their client database, each day Facebook is increasingly in a position to resell to brands the access to their own clients. 
Clever trick, isn’t it?

Moral of the story:

1. When you are offered a free sample (a few centiliters of perfume or make-up, the possibility of creating a fan page, etc.), it is always to sell something to you ultimately, whether you are B to C or B to B.

2. Americans are definitely very strong in marketing. Facebook has succeeded in transforming marketing professionals into common consumers who can be attracted with a simple free sample (technique invented nearly half a century ago). It is the master who gets a taste of his own medicine.

3. Just like many businesses, in particular American ones, Facebook was designed to make Facebook itself earn money… not brands!

After learning to play with Google, businesses should perhaps learn to recover from an abduction in which it is hard to identify the hostages (some of the business’ brand image, client data, access rights of brands to their own clients, etc.) and it is hard to attack the kidnapper as:

• he is American and is not part of our national jurisdiction

• he has the power to defend itself

  • he has most certainly drawn the terms and conditions of use in his favor by a team of lawyers who are well-versed in this procedure, which individual users almost never read and to which professionals should pay more attention.

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From Bertrand Jouvenot, The Inside Story of The Web, Editions Kawa (187 pages), 2013.

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