Much has been made about Facebook's recent tweaks to its newsfeed algorithm. It is hardly the first time that such a move has been made by the social giant, and they usually go something like this: having attracted brands to the allure of Facebook's huge user base, the social network cuts their newsfeed reach just enough to drive them towards using their ad platform (pay to play) or lose out on reach.
The response from brands is usually fear...or indignation. Many of these see social media as "free" and are appalled at efforts by Facebook to curb their ability to reach their 'fans'. Few, if any, flea the platform entirely, though.
These people miss the boat on several levels. For one, Facebook HAS to continue to fight to keep the user experience an enjoyable one. If FB becomes a giant spamathon of brand messaging, who would want to spend nearly an hour a day (on average) there?
Facebook has never been stupid and has proved willing to foresake quick brand cash for long-term growth. That's how they've ended up with over 1.65 billion active users.
In fact, as brands have flocked to Facebook the past few years organic growth has continued to drop. Makes perfect sense.
So what's next for brands? It's a safe bet more will go to ads. Facebook ads are still relatively affordable.
I, for one, will be following this closely: Will FB build out a bidding service like Google Adwords? Will Facebook drive up costs by cutting back on ad locations under the guise of improving the user experience?
Facebook has put its hooks in brands and now they have little choice but to go along. This is the inherent danger in putting your distribution eggs into someone else's basket. If you're a media producer, sure Facebook is important (more than important, really) but I would warn against relying on them completely for your reach.
Building your own content on your own platform will continue to be important for all brands.
But on a microlevel, focus on creating content that will be shared. This is the name of social media, by the way. Remember that the new changes don't appear to publish your content if it's shared by users' friends and family.
This is not to say that this level won't effect big publishers. It certainly will. The results for smaller business and those in college sports is less certain.
Shakeups like this are good for those of us who work in the digital space. It keeps us on our toes and reminds us that creativity and great content wins, but also reinforces that social is not (and never has been) free.