What if marketers didn’t ruin Facebook…WE did?

Ihave heard so much talk lately about how marketers ruined Facebook. This is one of the reasons people say that Mark Zuckerberg is making big updates so people see more friends and family and less from brands and pages.

Zuckerberg said that he wants users to engage with more meaningful content.

But here’s the thing: what if the things my friends and family are posting AREN’T meaningful?

MY MOM ON FACEBOOK

I don’t mean to pick on my mom. She’s actually really awesome. I’m just going to use her as an example of everyman — er, everymom.

If I were to look at her Facebook feed on any given day, it would be a mix of photos of my kids, photos of garden club, news links about the weather, and a whole lot of links with no commentary from her. Just links. (I actually scrolled her feed to make sure this was accurate. It is.)

My news feed is full of similar posts from friends: what their kids are doing this morning, what complaints they have about the weather/the President/their health/poor customer service at the local coffee shop. Toss in some memes, overhead food videos, and those color backgrounds that make SURE your text update is not missed in the feed.

As a culture, we’ve grown accustomed to posting on social media when we sneeze. Or when someone is taking too long in the drive-thru line.

We share details that we never would have before in the history of the world.

(Am I being overly dramatic? I actually don’t think so…)

Our Facebook feed has become the dumping ground for thoughts that would have remained in our heads or that we might have, in a not-so-distant past, told our friends in person or on the phone.

The threshold for sharing is INCREDIBLY LOW.

I might not call a friend to say how amazing my avocado toast was this morning.

But you better believe I’ll put that on Facebook. With a photo of my avocado toast. Or better yet: a gif.

Social media allowed everyone to have a public platform. We each got our own tiny stage. And in the beginning, we were kind of shy. We took the stage with a little more thought and intent. “Someone might see!” we thought before we hit “post.”

Ten years later and there is nothing that is too inconsequential to be shared.

The bar is below low.

There is no filter.

MARKETERS ON FACEBOOK

Let’s contrast that with marketers using Facebook. I could distinguish between “good” and “bad” marketers (which is to say effective and ineffective), but Facebook already does a lot of that for us. They kill organic reach of poorly performing posts on pages or pages that do nothing but promote themselves. They don’t even allow everything to make it through the ads manager.

So when you see posts from pages in your feed, you are seeing what the gatekeeper of Facebook allowed. You will see ads that are likely VERY specifically targeted to you. Maybe even down to whether or not you own a Kindle, what books you read last year, how recently you made an online purchase, and your household income.

You will see posts (sponsored and non-sponsored) that have been planned out with thought and care. They have been edited and possibly even tested to see what sparks the most engagement.

People running successful Facebook pages look at their insights to see what their audience like to see. They are paying attention to YOU. They create content for YOU. They likely have some kind of strategy to what they post, when they post, and how often.

Yes — people with pages are trying to get you to buy something or click through to read a blog post. Sometimes these posts or ads can be annoying.

But unlike the posts from friends and family cluttering my feed (love you, friends and family!), posts from pages are intentional.

There are actually two filters in place before that content gets to me: First, the marketer self-filters when planning out strategic, quality content. Second (because not all marketers plan out quality content), Facebook filters posts through the algorithm and/or ads manager.

OUR CROWDED STADIUM

Mark Zuckerberg wants us to have more meaningful interactions on Facebook. Aw, isn’t that nice! Personally, I think it’s a little presumptuous for anyone to tell me how I should use a social media platform.

My personal beef with that aside, will cutting the organic reach of pages and really achieve that??

It’s definitely possible to miss important events in the crowded feed. A friend shared that she completely missed the death of her friend because she never saw any posts about it and no one called to tell her. Because: it was on Facebook! Surely everyone knows, right?

We’ve all had the experience of seeing someone’s breakfast, but missing out on moves, marriages, or other meaningful events. The kind of significant events, I suspect, Zuckerberg wants us to see more of when he drops the reach of pages.

But perhaps the problem isn’t that we like too many pages or see too much content from brands. The issue more likely is US.

We liked our tiny stages so much that we opened the doors wider, letting more people in to watch. With a bigger room comes more noise.

I think this is the reason that there are so many apps and Chrome extensions to hide the newsfeed altogether. We suddenly look around in 2018 to find that our little social stage became a crowded stadium, filled with people who look slightly familiar and who are all talking at once.

People aren’t killing the newsfeed to hide ads or posts from pages. People are killing the newsfeed to hide friends and family and their constant, often inane updates.

THE MEANING OF SOCIAL MEDIA

As someone who posts multiple times a day, please don’t read this as me on a high horse. I’m very solidly in the Share Everything category of people, trust me.

But I keep coming back to this: If Zuckerberg wants us to engage with more meaningful content, cutting down on intentional, purposeful content from pages is not the best way.

A better idea might be to impose a filter on the average user beyond the algorithm already in place in our newsfeed. If we had restrictions, we might think before we post.

Facebook could limit people to five posts a day.

Or one gif per day.

Fifteen comments on posts.

Two photo uploads.

One video.

How much more would we think before we posted if we had limits? Twitter makes us better editors by trimming the fat from our words. (Even with 280 characters.) With limits, Facebook could trim the fat from our frequent postings.

Or we could simply stop friending so many people we don’t actually know. We could stop commenting on silly articles we don’t really care about, since that tells the algorithm we want to see more silly articles.

But perhaps Facebook has become less of a social media platform related to connections and more of a replacement for TV. Rather than flipping mindlessly through channels, we scroll the feed. We traded out one mind-numbing activity for another.

I’m not mad about this. I can’t be the only one who likes the meaningless scroll at the end of the day! Give me all the memes and gifs and pictures of your breakfast. I’m all in with the fun posts!

Say you want more meaning from the platform. Where are significant conversations already happening on Facebook? In closed Facebook groups.

Groups have, until recently, been relatively ignored by Facebook. Which is a good thing. I can’t help wonder if, now that Facebook announced that it’s paying attention to groups, things will get worse in groups, not better. (More on this HERE.)

In the end, I think it’s too late to put Pandora back in the box. Zuckerberg can’t force us to have meaningful interactions on Facebook when we’re used to cat fail videos and never-have-I-ever memes.

Facebook can filter out the marketers, but (for better or for worse) your newsfeed is still full of your friends.

Disclaimer: Hopefully no friends were personally harmed by the writing of this post. Because I love you guys and your posts about whatever! That’s why we’re friends.

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