The speed of the feed: Facebook’s real problem


Facebook admitted in their Q3 earnings call what many of us have been saying for months: Teens are bored with Facebook and not using it as much. What they have yet to admit is that a lot of people of all ages are bored with Facebook.

As I travel the country, speaking with my clients and giving presentations, I often ask the audience if they find Facebook less interesting than they did 6 months ago. The answer is nearly universally a yes.

But why? Is it the ads, which Facebook acknowledges are 1 in 20 posts? Is it because Grandma is on the page, commenting on your slightly risqué innuendos? That’s part of it, but it’s a much more fundamental problem.

And it’s easy for Facebook to fix.

It will make users happier.

It will make brands happier.

It will make Facebook more money.

The answer? Increase the speed of the feed. Twice in the last 18 months, Facebook has tightened up the News Feed. Both times marketers have squawked and many are furious. 16% of your fans see your content? For most brands, that old Facebook nugget is now a pipe dream. With a 44% decline in organic reach seeming to appear on December 1, many now struggle to reach 3% of their fans. So if you have 1 million fans, only 30,000 may see a given post, which would make Facebook an undesirable broadcast platform.

There’s a lot brands can do to enhance their Facebook marketing but the decline we saw in December had no correlation to the performance of that page prior to the algorithm change. The burden of showing lots of good content to people is Facebook’s to bear, and at this point, to fix.

Between privacy settings, the disastrous “story bumping” and Facebook’s limiting content from all but a few of my friends, most of that wealth of content is hidden, making the Facebook experience a bit boring. The teens are running to Twitter and Instagram, which have completely unfiltered, constantly changing feeds. Twitter owns social TV conversations, despite the fact that Facebook claims to have 5x more conversation. But watch the Super Bowl next month on Facebook and Twitter. It will be hard to tell there’s a big game going on via Facebook.

If Facebook were to speed up the feed, showing me and all its other users more content (as they used to), it would make Facebook seem more alive and dynamic (as it used to). It would also de facto mean that branded content would be shown more, making Facebook’s major customers happier. And they would have more updates streaming by, meaning that Facebook could show more ads without breaking its 1 in 20 rule. That means more revenue for Facebook.

Lighten up the reins, Facebook. Despite years of effort by your very smart engineers, your algorithms don’t really know who or what I care about. Show me more stuff and I can decide. And you can make more money.

Jim Tobin is founder and president of Ignite Social Media, one of the world’s leading social media marketing agencies. In his new book, “Earn It. Don’t Buy It: The CMO’s Guide to Social Media Marketing in a Post-Facebook World,” Tobin explains how the social media landscape is changing.

Top image courtesy of Facebook