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Is Facebook Suppressing Non-Paid Posts?

Submitted by on March 4, 2013 – 4:03 pmNo Comment

New York Times tech writer Nick Bilton discovered an odd trend recently: the articles he shares on Facebook started receiving hundreds less likes and reshares. But when he paid to have another post “promoted” in friends’ news feeds, those numbers shot back up. So is Facebook going beyond promoted posts, and actively suppressing non-paid material?

Bilton lays out his evidence, using the behavior of the 400,000 Facebook users who subscribe to his feed:

From the four columns I shared in January, I have averaged 30 likes and two shares a post. Some attract as few as 11 likes. Photo interaction has plummeted, too. A year ago, pictures would receive thousands of likes each; now, they average 100. I checked the feeds of other tech bloggers, including MG Siegler of TechCrunch and reporters from The New York Times, and the same drop has occurred.

What changed? I recently tried a little experiment. I paid Facebook $7 to promote my column to my friends using the company’s sponsored advertising tool.

To my surprise, I saw a 1,000 percent increase in the interaction on a link I posted, which had 130 likes and 30 reshares in just a few hours.

But what if the answer is a little less sinister? Promoted content could just be crowding out non-paid content. Still sad, but not as intentional.

But Facebook insists that’s not the case. A product manager there tells Bilton that ads and the amount of interaction with other content “aren’t related.”

Which means that it could be a problem with the algorithm that Facebook uses to sort stories in news feeds. A different Facebook employee acknowledges this possibility, and seemed to apologize, saying, “It’s really not in our best interest to take out the most engaging stuff and replace it with ads.”

Another strike against Facebook, but with over a billion users, it’s in no danger of running out of customers any time soon. But with customer satisfaction ratings near those of a utilities company (that is to say, low), Facebook will either have to eventually deal with the issues of being a monopoly- or they will have to deal with competition from social networks that provide similar service without all the strings attached.

What do you think?


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