Facebook says it is about making the user experience on its network more enjoyable. Critics say it is all about the money. Either way, Facebook has now admitted that businesses that want to get any significant attention to their posts there will have to pay for it.
Facebook’s argument is that increasing competition for advertising space in news feeds means that it could not keep providing space for individual businesses at the same pace without increasing the overall number of ads, which would lead to a less satisfactory user experience; in fact, it has recently been restructuring the news feed to try to make it more appealing and relevant to users, which has involved putting more focus on links to news stories. Between this and posts by people’s friends, which Facebook naturally does not want to stop prioritizing, the space available to advertisers has actually shrunk.
Other people are more skeptical. Space may indeed be an issue; however, given the level of competition that now exists, Facebook does not need to keep giving away things to businesses for free. With limited opportunity now to expand its user base, its only real opportunity for making more money comes from finding new ways to monetize its interactions with existing ones. Its massive market dominance means that businesses need to be there, while ordinary users have more choice and are more valuable; it is easy to see who will be targeted with charges.
Of course, no business has to pay Facebook for the privilege of advertising there – and free ads will still be an option – but as more and more businesses choose to put in some money to increase the reach of their social media marketing, it will become even harder for unpaid ads and social posts by businesses to get noticed. The result could also be rising costs for those who choose to take the paid route.
This still leaves businesses on a tight budget with some options. Promoting posts with social content, for instance, costs less than paying for regular ads and is often a more effective way to connect with potential buyers. Building up a good fan base is still worthwhile, as it means that promoted material will reach more people, and the effort put into this in the past will not now be wasted.