Why Facebook Doesn’t Want People to Read About Your Big Sale

[dropcap size=small]W[/dropcap]elcome to a new month and the dawning of another new age in social media marketing. If you’re operating a Facebook page for your business, the holidays have brought with them some critical new changes you should be immediately aware of. 

And if you’re thinking that Facebook has already thrown you a curveball lately, you are correct. Only a few weeks ago, the social media giant announced the end of like-gating—a common business page practice where users were required to like a page before entering a contest. That change took effect on November 5th, nine days before the announcement of the next round of changes.

In a November 14 release the company outlined changes that will affect business pages on January 1, 2015. According to the release, Facebook surveys hundreds of thousands of users before drawing this conclusion:

“What we discovered is that a lot of the content people see as too promotional is posts from Pages they like, rather than ads. This may seem counterintuitive but it actually makes sense: News Feed has controls for the number of ads a person sees and for the quality of those ads (based on engagement, hiding ads, etc.), but those same controls haven’t been as closely monitored for promotional Page posts. Now we’re bringing new volume and content controls for promotional posts, so people see more of what they want from Pages.”

That’s a lot of California corporate speak, so let’s break it down.

Basically, Facebook is saying their users are tired of promotional posts in News Feed. Specifically, the posts that pimp your new product or sale.

  • Your Third Thursday of the Month Tackle Sale? Facebook users don’t care about that.
  • How to Catch Trout on the Third Thursday of the Month? Facebook users do care about that.
  • If you want people to continue to see posts about your page, even promoted ones, you’ve got to play by the new rules.

In the release, Facebook cited two examples of the type of bad posts they are trying to eliminate. You can see them below.

In both photos, it’s easy to see the problem. And if we’re honest, it’s likely most people would agree that both of those posts would be annoying in their own News Feed. But as a business owner, it’s difficult to imagine promoting your products in another way. To find out how you should do that, we talked to social media expert Dena Woerner, who manages some of the largest Facebook profiles in the outdoor industry.

Woerner says the new rules will force business owners to redefine how they identify a Facebook ad. “They want you using ads to promote promotions and discounts instead of reposting the same messages,” she said. “Think about it. These types of posts aren’t content rich, engaging posts. They don’t spark a conversation with a reader. Instead, they shout out a deal.”

So if those posts aren’t content rich, what do you do? You have to try new things. Facebook says to connect with words and pictures. And Woerner says don’t be afraid to fail.

“Fail Fast. The beauty of digital is that it can be adjusted and changed quickly.

Try it. If your strategy works, great! Keep with it. If it doesn’t, move on very quickly. Study your analytics and other variables and learn why it failed.

Historically, Facebook changes a rule or a policy like this and if it’s too drastic, companies pull back and Facebook softens it. An example of this behavior is contests. They made a big policy and announcement that we had to use software to run contests. They added fan gating so that we would use the software. Two years later, they softened the software requirements but made us add disclaimers so that Facebook isn’t liable for contests. This year, they killed fan gating. Are there advantages to software, yes—data mining. So we still use the software. We can action gate instead of fan gate.

When all of this started, there were ‘friend pages.’ Businesses had friend pages and started using those to promote their products. Facebook couldn’t make money at this so in 2009 they made ‘Fan pages’ and added unique features like insights to bait us into switching. When this wasn’t enough, they limited friend pages to 5000 friends. So, companies with a large following would need to switch.”

Facebook, you should know, is always on the hunt for better ways to make money. They are, like you, a business. However, Facebook also has to balance their income-generating business pages with the reason most people are on the social network in the first place: personal accounts.

What do people really join Facebook for? To connect with other people. To share photos of their children and achievements and to talk about the world’s events with their friends.

The best advice for building your brand on Facebook remains the same. Give people information. Be personable.

Nothing has really changed, says Woerner.

Content is still king—the company with the most engaging content will win.