Not so long ago, presumably during a hyper-manic episode, I wrote something about my own personal history with online social networking. From the comparatively Flintstonian ICQ to Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, I have always found it fascinating.
Not long before I wrote that piece I started blogging. It was around the end of May this year and I started my now terribly neglected blog jaspercliffordsmith.com. At the time I was extremely happy if I got 100 hits a day. I knew nothing about search engine optimization (or SEO for those who speak French) and I promoted my posts entirely on Facebook. The way I saw it, everyone I know uses Facebook, my attention span is way too small to network with other bloggers on WordPress and I only have about 100 twitter followers so there isn’t much point to that either. I was just happy to have my innermost thoughts scrutinized and laughed at by my friends, family and acquaintances.
Soon I realized that strangers were reading what I posted. It was, after all, on the Internet so I wasn’t particularly surprised. Around the time of the Olympics I was getting people reading my stuff in places like Saudi Arabia, Georgia, Sri Lanka, Barbados and even New Zealand. I couldn’t believe it. I had exploded. I was worldwide, even if I was still only getting 190 hits a day.
I started writing for other people’s blogs. I did a few things for Bobby Townsend’s Something You Said blog. He had been doing it for a while and seemed to have his formula down pat. He was on the Vice bloggers network and had nearly 1000 followers on Twitter. I was also writing for Nick Hollins Skydreams blog. Nick was new to the blogging game like me but he had a good vision and a reliable and consistent team of contributors. When asked about how he promoted Skydreams when he first started it he says ‘’Facebook was the first thing I used to start gaining followers and traffic on the site. It was a no-brainer as everyone’s constantly on the damn site and Skydreams was set-up as an antithesis to the advertising based model. Facebook and Twitter were pretty much the only tools we used to get the site out to people. They were handy as they didn’t cost anything and you could spread the posts to your friends and the relevant people, like bands and stuff. ”
Most bloggers do start out that way. Fuck, all of us do! And it’s not only bloggers. Bands, Café’s, Promoters, Charities. We all rely on free social media to get out message across. With only a small fraction of social media users on Twitter, Facebook is more or less the only option. When asked if he noticed a change in the way your Facebook posts were being seen by your followers Nick replied ‘Oh absolutely. Somewhat shamelessly Facebook itself gives you statistics under each of your posts to tell you “how many people saw this post” … and since about early October, the numbers coming back were cut dramatically. Suddenly we were getting several hundred less people seeing each post. Going from say 300 to 63. Funnily enough the growth of Skydreams is continuing, but a couple months ago it was rising really rapidly. I think these Facebook changes may have negatively affected things.’
The increase in numbers for active blogs such as Skydreams is probably down to SEO. Skydreams hit rate will increase, with or without Facebook, as long as they keep putting up new content that people are looking for. Their Google ranking will improve and at the end of the day, that’s what really matters.
What happened to Nick has happened to every single person with a Facebook page. Any Facebook user would have noticed that there is an option below every post you make that asks you if you want to ‘promote’ your post. In order to do this you have to fork out $200 or else your post will only be able to be seen by 15% of those who like your page. For a blog such as this one which only launched less than 48 hours ago and has 20 likes at the time of writing, this means if we don’t pay the $200 only 3 people will see when we post a new article on Facebook. For bigger businesses (McDonalds, BP, The Nazi’s) the $200 is nothing but for small start-ups we have to rely on our (often miniscule) Twitter base, SEO and WordPress communities. It’s farken bullshit.
The question is why would Facebook do this? Why the cash grab? They seem to have the whole world locked into their master plan, why ruin it? Everyone is on Facebook. People volunteer to like products that are made by huge multinationals. Why does the independent band, theatre group, mime..(Whatever) have to pay the same rates to advertise to less people than Monsanto and Halliburton? Why can’t there be a sliding scale? Is this a pack of billionaires thinking they are playing fair?
In my experience I have found Facebook to be a great way to keep in touch with friends and family but let’s be honest, most of your Facebook newsfeed reads like:
‘HAHAHA! WHAT A GORJUS BABY SOOOO JELLY’
‘I’m so depressed and broke and I love Daria I’m a shit cunt’
‘READ MY BLOG’
‘OMG THE BEACH OMG LOL’
‘Happy birthday virtual stranger’
Not particularly riveting. Twitter on the other hand serves another purpose, to keep people informed and in touch with their interests rather than in touch with each other. Right on.
Look, as soon as Facebook price out every artist, musician, small Business, blogger and regular human being, logging in will feel like opening a dead relative’s letter box. Dominoes vouchers as far as the eye can see but no information.
Facebook think they are the new telephone; an essential communication tool used by everyone, but when they start fucking people around and shaking good folks down then people will start to go elsewhere.
Nothing lasts forever Zuckerberg. Just ask Tom from MySpace.
If you want to read Jasper’s previous article on social networking it is located here
And for an interesting and more detailed take on the whole Facebook-extorting-good-folk-out-of-hard-earned-money situation read this http://dangerousminds.net/comments/facebook_i_want_my_friends_back