A few weeks ago I wrote a post that addressed some disturbing behaviors I’d noticed with Facebook’s changes to Page engagement. It got picked up by Nicholas Carlson at BusinessInsider, and since then I’ve received many comments and emails from folks expressing their own disdain at Facebook’s new policies in regards to Page engagement. There were also a few people who tried to call me out as a whiner that is too cheap to participate in the “pay to play” system.
For the record, I’m not concerned because Facebook has decided to monetize access to their user base. That is a totally reasonable move to make, given they’re providing a platform for folks to share and receive content. My problem lies in two specific issues:
A) My personal issue with Facebook’s algorithm changes: When people follow, or “like,” a Facebook Page, they are hoping to receive that page’s content. As a user, I get annoyed when I miss updates from not only the Pages I follow, but also my friends and family. I want this content. I agreed to receive it. As a user, I do not appreciate these posts being hidden from me unless I remember to go search it out. One commenter on the BusinessInsider article summed it up very well: “I’ve MISSED important things on Facebook – like events and work opportunities – because their stupid robot algorithm decided I shouldn’t see it.” (user: FBX)
B) My professional issue with Facebook’s algorithm changes: Many brands and bloggers — myself included — have paid Facebook to run ads in an attempt to build our Page following. While we cannot buy users outright, we can run small ads that encourage interested folks to subscribe to our content (see Point A, above). For users, for Page owners, and for Facebook, this is a perfectly reasonable way to go about it. Here’s the problem: Facebook severely restricted access to the very users they charged Page owners to reach out to, after they accepted money for them. The implied agreement was that a Page owner who paid into Facebook’s advertising system will continue to receive access to the users they already spent time, energy, and money on attracting through Facebook’s provided channels. Facebook changed the rules of the game after taking our money. To Page owners that bought into their initial advertising scheme — Page owners that agreed to the terms of their original request that we “pay to play,” I might add – that’s breach of implied contract.
As luck would have it, a few hours before I saw the BusinessInsider piece, I wrote an email to Facebook. Since Facebook has no easily accessible support department, I sent the email to both Advertising Support and the feedback form on their site. I also sent the email to an internal Facebook contact I have, who shall remain nameless for the purposes of this post.
Here is the email I sent:
I’m emailing because I’ve recently developed a major concern about reach to my Page followers. For the past few years I’ve been buying paid ads to grow my Facebook presence, in order to amass “likes” and followers for my page, “The Culinary Life“. Now Facebook has changed the rules and started limiting the access I have to these “likes” and followers I already paid for.Since I no longer have the access that was implied when I paid for advertising to increase my likes and followers, I would like my money back for the ads I ran. You are welcome to remove the gathered followers from my page.It is terribly unethical for Facebook to ask me to pay to gather followers and then, after the fact, remove the access they once provided to said followers, demanding payment yet again for what was commonplace when I entered into the advertising agreement. Facebook had set forth an implied contract between the company and myself, a paid advertiser, and the company is no longer adhering to the terms of that contract.When I paid for my ads, I — and many others — were doing so under the assumption that Facebook was acting in good faith, and would continue to allow access to the followers we had paid for in a similar fashion to what had always been the case. Facebook has charged for the ability to grow one’s reach and then reduced that reach capability after collecting our money. Facebook is no longer acting in a good faith capacity. The company has broken the implied agreement.Please return all of my advertising dollars and keep the followers that “liked” my page as a result of my paid ads. These followers are of no use to me now, as they no longer see my content.Thanks so much for your time and understanding.
As was to be expected, both the Support and Feedback responses were unsatisfying. Along with a canned response outlining their billing policies, each ended with this: “Facebook only issues refunds in cases of unauthorized or fraudulent charges so we will be unable to refund you in this particular case. You can review our Payment Terms.” I asked that my request be forwarded to a manager or supervisor. I have not yet gotten a response. I have also not heard from the internal contact I emailed.
We’re at a crossroads, it seems. This may be something for the legal system to decide, but given their resources, who is willing to battle Facebook in court? And is it even worth it? Perhaps the easiest, healthiest way to deal with this situation is to simply leave Facebook behind. Joyfully.
I’ve got more to say on this. Stay tuned for another post. To check out Part 1 in this series, go here.
As I mentioned in my other post on the topic, I’m going to stop posting on Facebook so much. My readers are not seeing my posts anyway. If you’re interested in the delicious things I want to share, I encourage you to please sign up to receive my new posts by email, or to join my monthly mailing list. You can also follow me over at Google+, where the foodie community is brimming with recipes, videos, and general excitement.
Another new option is to subscribe to The Culinary Life broadcasts on App.net. It’s a great little tool that allows you to feed your favorite sites into one easy-to-follow stream. If you enjoy App.net, you can receive a real-time update every time I publish a new article or recipe. Highly recommended.
I’d love to keep sharing my culinary content with you, but unfortunately, Facebook is not a place I can do that anymore. And I’m not the only one that feels this way.