Stop complaining about Facebook

There's a new trend in town, Facebook bashing.

Today it seems de rigeur in the world of social media to have a good go at good old Facebook.

Now I’m not going to defend the bohemoth network until its death — it definitely has its limitations.

But with continued reports of how Facebook is forcing brands to ‘pay to play’, with organic reach (i.e. unpaid reach) declining and OH THE HORROR, I’m getting a bit sick of it all.

The latest diatribe was from Eat24, a previously unknown-to-most food blog who penned a quite salacious letter about how they were going to break up with Facebook.

Internet rejoice, because David and Goliath.


Now it’s a little bit sad to be honest. The whole situation comes down to a very simple fact: users don’t want to see your rubbish. Facebook’s algorithm is a (necessarily) complex beast, and it’s designed to keep users on the site (duh). Which means it preferentially displays things that they want to see:

  • News from friends and family
  • Photos of people they stalk all the time
  • Things their friends find funny, because they are likely to as well

And less of your food pictures (/cat memes / hilarious dad-jokes / blatant ads for your product(s)) posted directly by your Facebook Page.

Cool story

Now the other problem here people don’t seem to be able to grasp is that there is a pretty basic issue at play. As people connect with more friends (and even shock-horror Pages!) on Facebook, the amount of ‘stuff’ that can be possibly displayed to them increases exponentially.

Meanwhile, the amount of space to display said ‘stuff’ remains the same, and even by some reports might decrease as users spend time on other platforms like Instagram or tumblr.

So you kinda get a graph like this:


(sorry, I have terrible drawing skills).

Now the area shaded in yellow is the place the algorithm comes into play: there’s more stuff that could go into the News Feed than can fit in the News Feed. And so Facebook prioritizes things that the user wants (e.g. through often engaging with the person).

Suggesting this is all about Facebook ‘money-grabbing’ is missing the core point: that simply something has to go, and users want more of their friends’ stuff and less of a brand’s stuff. IT’S MATH AND SCIENCE.

Sure, Twitter solved this another way — simply not having any ranking or sorting. And that’s one method. But I sure as hell wouldn’t use Facebook if I just saw a time-ordered feed of the generic rubbish people post every day like this idiot:


So it’s hard. And blaming Facebook that your brand’s content that you’re trying to inject into people’s feeds of stuff they want (yes, like ads, even if you’re not paying for them — do you ‘like’ the ads on TV?) is a bit short-sighted. Yes, they’re going to try and make money. They’re publicly listed with shareholders and responsibilities. What is this, a business trying to make money from me, a business trying to make money?!


I see the situation as akin to search and Google. People don’t really complain when Google’s algorithm changes and penalises the hell out of people who are SEO-ing the heck out of their websites with article spinners and other rubbish content. Because it delivers you, the user, more stuff that you want — the right search results.

Perhaps a topic for a future rant, but let’s not forget that when Google Search / AdWords was launched it was in many ways a great equaliser — the small local business had the same opportunity and cost to put ads in front of users than the big end of town. And Facebook Ads are much like that. So stop looking a gift horse in the mouth.

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