This sample MLA marketing essay aims to unravel Facebook’s paid advertising strategies. It discusses a number of problems with the social networking empire from the decline of organic research and the rise of paid ads to data mining customer information. This blog was written at the undergraduate level to serve as a sample for the Ultius blog.
What’s Really Up Facebook?
Facebook has moved away from its primary purpose as being a place where friends can connect online into a much vaster network of interests. Some of these interests are in conflict with their 1.59 billion of users. Coming to ahead in 2014, marketers and business owners realized that on average their posts reached only 12% of those following them, and this number drops all the time, some speculating it is as low as 6.5%. Anyone who visits Facebook regularly will not be surprised by this. But why, is the question, it seems a conflict of interests, and it is. Like many inconvenient truths, to find the answer one must only follow the money trail to its dark hole.
The decline in organic research the massive limitations of sharing and viewing on Facebook has users questioning the sanctions of connectivity the organization is supposedly based on. After the pressure built to a head with enough velocity, and the press started to get nasty, Facebook’s VP of Advertising and Technology, Brian Boland was forced to respond. As suspected the reasoning is suspect, as;
The two main reasons Boland cited for the organic reach decline? First, there’s simply too much content being published on Facebook, making visibility in the News Feed increasingly competitive. Second, Facebook is deliberately trying to show people the content that is most relevant to them, as opposed to surfacing all the content available. (Devaney)
Those who read this may have been surprised that Facebook was so concerned about getting the news to its users when it is primarily a social site, right? However, they were also probably not surprised that Facebook was customizing their feed thinking they are giving the people what they want, as this is standard with Google search engine (Weber). This is unfortunate because many people do not always want to be told what someone thinks they want to hear, but would like the freedom and objectivity to search out a multiplicity of facts. Tailoring search functions greatly inhibits this (you can get around Google with Opera search, which also is less prone to spyware and virus attacks). This choice represents a fundamental insecurity on the part of Facebook, thinking they will lose views, posts, and shares if they do not pander to the regular (Constine).
Tunnel Vision of Greed
However, the real motivation as usual is money, and in their greed for increased profits Facebook has become less willing to risk wandering attentions through confrontation. Get this, Facebook’s profit for the last three months of 2015:
Facebook brought in $5.8 billion — growth of 52%. But it made $1.6 billion in profit — a whopping 123% increase from a year earlier. Mobile ad revenue also saw a big jump — it now makes up 80% of total advertising revenue, up from 69% a year earlier. (King)
That is an incredible amount of money for three months, and this is not incorporating FB, Tech30’s earnings.
Using the same approach as Google to tailor their advertising to searches, Facebook has created many new features to encourage people to stay on the site longer. These entrapments involve, “Live video, collages, more tailored notifications, the ability to hide from an ex’s posts and a more powerful search tool” (King). While this keeps people on the site longer it does not address the issue of why connectivity is so limited. The answer to this mini why is money again, and the demand to buy views it once offered for free.
This is a classic marketing ploy with any new business, and Facebook is big business (and one of the best college movie of all time), to hook a bunch of customers with free services, and then once they are used to them and have made them a part of their daily lives, take them away and offer to sell it to them. While this is most true for businesses which use Facebook for marketing, advertising, and connecting, it is impacting everyone, even those who just want to know what’s up with their peeps (Constine). Facebook’s grift is simple: start by convincing brands they need to purchase Fans and Likes, then they charge them to speak to those Fans they just purchased.
It is a breach of privacy to data mine its users like Facebook does, but it has structured its own legalize in ways where it could never be held accountable for the billions it makes selling private information to targeted advertising. In order to appease frustrated users, Facebook created a new ability whereby, “If you hover over the top, right-hand corner of any Facebook ad, you can access a dropdown menu that will let you hide certain ads, rate ads as helpful… see why a particular advertiser chose to target you” (Brandesisky). While this appears like it is a caring choice from administration who want to help you use Facebook as you like it is actually a double trick of further data mining. The ads you hide, the reasons why, all of it is data mined and crafted into further advertising. Do this all day long and you will not receive fewer ads, perhaps more. In this way Facebook’s greed is like a virus which grows from any attention places on it.
At least Facebook lets its users see the information they are accumulating and making billions of dollars off of. In the “Why am I seeing this?” tab under “Manage your ad preferences” you can see what data mining looks like, such as the restaurants you like, the sports teams you support, and what you like to watch. You can change what you like, but you can’t opt out of ads. Considering that this behavior nets Facebook billions of dollars per month, the news that Mark Zuckerberg is giving away $45 Billion dollars of shares during his lifetime to celebrate his daughter’s birth does not make the splash it would have twenty years ago when selling private information was not such big business (Carson). After all, for Zuckerberg that’s a few month’s earnings, and after having hundreds of billions of dollars it becomes relatively meaningless to have a few billion more. The algorithms which rake in this dough are working overtime. However, many Facebook users are determined and tech savvy enough to circumvent this trick, and here’s how.
However, some people have experimented with more complex ways of overcoming the corrupted search algorithm. The values of videos, links, and combinations of many of have been experimented with and analyzed in the hope of getting followers to see you. Four steps some have tried are:
- Take advantage of your cover image by adding a call-to-action
- Keep your profile image up-to-date.
- Update your short description (below your cover image)
- Make sure your location and all of your “about” fields are filled in correctly (Cooper)
The rest of the many attempts only play into the money building schemes of Facebook, and are not as effective as changing the settings.
Even though Facebook is making more money than ever before, the younger generations are not using the site as much, saying it is primarily for older people, and that newer social media is taking over FB. Like any boom and burst market it is likely that Facebook could over sell their users, and make themselves extinct through the exhaustion of constant advertising and data theft. People can only be pushed so far until they create, support, or invent their own methods for achieving their goals, just as Zuckerberg did for himself. The lack of trust and profiteering which is going on with Facebook does not bode well for their future, and Zuckerberg may want to hold onto his shares while he can.
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The loss of organic reach on Facebook continues to plummet as the desire for profits increase. The many conflicts of interests on the site belie its free use, and the primary reason for its existence. Users will have to gauge how much they desire their personal information to be in the pocket change of billionaires.
Constine, Josh. “Your Average Facebook Post Only Reaches 12% Of Your Friends.” Tech Crunch, 29 Feb. 2012. Retrieved from: https://techcrunch.com/2012/02/29/facebook-post-reach-16-friends/
Brandeisky, Kara. “This Is Who Facebook Thinks You Are.” TIME, 11 Aug. 2014. Retrieved from: http://time.com/money/3086369/facebook-ad-tracking-block-privacy/
Carson, Biz. “Mark Zuckerberg says he’s giving away 99% of his Facebook shares — worth $45 billion today.” Business Insider, 1 Dec. 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.businessinsider.com/mark-zuckerberg-giving-away-99-of-his-facebook-shares-2015-12
Cooper, Belle Beth. “9 Ways to Counteract Facebook’s Big Algorithm Change.” Bufferapp.com, 21 Jan. 2014. Retrieved from: https://blog.bufferapp.com/9-ways-to-work-with-facebooks-big-algorithm-change
Devaney, Erik. “Why Don’t My Facebook Fans See My Posts? The Decline of Organic Facebook Reach.” Hubspot.com, 7 Apr. 2016. Retrieved from: http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/facebook-declining-organic-reach
King, Hope. “Facebook is making more money off you than ever before.” CNN, 27 Jan. 2016. Retrieved from: http://money.cnn.com/2016/01/27/technology/facebook-earnings/
Lione, Albert. “New Facebook Settings are Limiting What You See in Your News Feed.” Facebook, 12 Feb. 2011. Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/notes/handicappedpetscom/new-facebook-settings-are-limiting-what-you-see-in-your-news-feed/501658945207/
Weber, Thomas E. “How Facebook Decides What To Put In Your News Feed – These 10 Secrets Reveal All.” Business Insider, 18 Oct. 2010. Retrieved from: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-facebook-decides-what-to-put-in-your-news-feed–these-10-secrets-reveal-all-2010-10