Facebook changes may impact social media marketing efforts

Since Facebook became a publicly traded company in May, and subsequently failed to skyrocket on the stock market, there has been a lot of buzz among media members and public-relations professionals about the effects monetization could have on the site. One of the most recent uproars was a rumor that the social-networking giant, which has now reached more than 1 billion users, had begun restricting the visibility of posts made by pages (businesses, entertainers, non-profits, etc., as opposed to personal profiles) to a given percentage of users who had “liked” their page.

In reality, explained Joel Eckman, IT director at PM Advertising and Globalsites.net, Facebook has changed its structure for pages in recent weeks, incorporating both a “subscribe” button next to the “like” button, and an option to “add a page to interest lists.” “Liking” a page appears to show a user’s support for it, but also limits or halts posts from that page from bombarding users’ homepages, especially if the page posts frequently. Additionally “subscribing” to a page seems to remove this limitation, allowing all posts to appear on a user’s homepage in real time.

“[We’ve found] the ability to reach out just by making a post has diminished quite a bit — because, we assume, almost no one has subscribed,” said Eckman.

Since the subscribe option did not receive a lot of buzz or explanation from Facebook when it was first introduced, many users may not be aware that they aren’t seeing updates from pages they have “liked” but not subscribed to, and Eckman suspects, many businesses may be unaware they aren’t reaching their full audience.

There’s the catch — in addition to creating ads, Facebook now allows pages to pay to promote specific content to a targeted audience, essentially overriding the problem of posts only reaching those users who have hit the subscribe button.

Actually, said Eckman, page administrators can create a plan promoting posts to any demographic they choose based on Facebook’s new controls, including age, gender, location, degree of connection with the page, and even interests and activities. It’s a little unclear how some information such as “interests” is collected, however.

“There’s a lot that they hold close to the vest — if it’s too clear how to be number one on everyone’s newsfeed, then everyone would do it,” Eckman said.

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