Social Networks and the Value of Proprietary Platforms

by Adam on October 15, 2012

While not the first source to report on the newly discovered issue with Facebook promotional posts, Business Insider recently featured an article that definitively calls out the social network over their use of an intentionally flawed algorithm in how fan pages reach their audiences.

The gist (in case you haven’t heard it) is that starting in mid-September, Facebook significantly changed the way in which brands and companies can use their pages to engage the fans that have “liked” those pages, which coincided quite nicely with the introduction of Facebook sponsored posts (basically a pay-for-play model where brands could pay some amount of money to turn each post into a “promoted post” giving it further reach and visibility to fans of each page.) In cases where brands opted not to pay for “promoted posts,” those posts would only reach 10-15% of the audience that already likes the page. In essence, Facebook is now saying that you can’t reach your entire audience without paying for that access.

Without rehashing many of the discussions that have already taken place, or going into all the reasons why this is a problem, I do think it’s worth pointing out the value of proprietary networks and platforms in these instances. For the longest time, marketing experts were convincing brands and companies that the value in digital media was not so much in building a platform and driving people to it, but in going to where those audiences already were and engaging them. Maybe so, but the folly of this strategy is quickly unfolding in front of us. Without the control of the platform that usually comes with investment over time  in digital media, brands are now at the whims of a larger company in how they can reach and engage their users.

And even more concerning is that we don’t actually know where this road will lead us. The promotional posting issue likely is just the first blow to branding strategies on the social site. Who’s to say that at some point, Facebook won’t charge a monthly access rate for “business accounts” (which would be a justifiable position, and probably a good business model for the company itself)? And where would that then leave those brands who didn’t or couldn’t pay?

Ultimately, brands have to decide how they are going to invest their digital resources going forward. There is definite value in building out proprietary platforms, innovating with social media functionality that is additive to an overall strategy, rather than the very foundation of that strategy. The main issue, and what brands now need to contend with, is that so many have turned Facebook into the platform, rather than an outlet or channel, that they now must reevaluate their digital outreach. It’s not too late to change direction, or at least enhance their marketing with outside the box thinking that isn’t all about Facebook and Twitter.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter Turner October 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Great post, Adam. One other ramification of proprietary social media is the unpredictability of how brands are allowed interact with users. I have heard businesses and investors who shy away from focusing on Facebook as a key element of their business development strategy for this reason. And this is an obstacle whether one is considering social media as a platform or a channel–it strikes me as more a matter of degree.

Adam October 18, 2012 at 12:06 am

It’s a good point Peter, and I think ultimately any instance where you don’t control the medium has some degree of risk built in. It’s that uncertainty that makes the investment in proprietary really worthwhile, but also incredibly time consuming and costly. But, when you look at what publishers are going through with Amazon (lack of consumer data, pricing issues, etc) it becomes clear that a direct consumer model in all its forms really makes the most sense.

Google June 18, 2014 at 9:18 pm

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same applies to a site that’s been stuck in Google’s naughty corner.
* Let you know there are things you can do to improve y0ur ranking.

The only tab of your concern is Public Templates, and no actions are necessary as it is already on the screen.

Bridgette July 22, 2014 at 2:32 pm

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Its 2 megapixel camera faces front of the tablet
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