Tag Archives: Social Media

The Fall Of Facebook Has Only Just Begun

Their platform is broken and neither human nor machine can fix it.

Even after losing roughly a third of its market cap, it still may prove one of the great shorts of all time.

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(ZeroHedge) “There’s no mental health support. The employee suicide rate is extremely high,” one of the directors of the documentary, “The Cleaners” told CBS News last May. The film is an investigative look at the life of Facebook moderators in the Philippines. Throughout his 2018 apology tour, Mark Zuckerberg regularly referenced the staff of moderators the company had hired as one of two key solutions — along with AI — to the platform’s content evils. What he failed to disclose is that the majority of that army is subcontractors employed in the developing world.

For as long as ten hours a day, viewing as many as 25,000 images or videos per day, these low-paid workers are buried in the world’s horrors — hate speech, child pornography, rape, murder, torture, beheadings, and on and on. They are not experts in the subject matter or region they police. They rely on “guidelines” provided by Facebook — “dozens of unorganized PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets with bureaucratic titles like ‘Western Balkans Hate Orgs and Figures’ and ‘Credible Violence: Implementation standards’,” as The New York Times reported last fall. The rules are not even written in the languages the moderators speak, so many rely on Google Translate. As a recent op-ed by John Naughton in The Guardian declares bluntly in its headline, “Facebook’s burnt-out moderators are proof that it is broken.”

As we noted in last week’s issue, 41 of the 53 analysts tracked by Bloomberg currently list Facebook as a buy, with “the average price target… $187, which implies upside of nearly 36%.” That optimism springs from a basic assumption: the company’s monopolistic data dominance means it can continue extracting more from advertisers even if controversy after controversy continues to sap its user growth. Given the depth and intractability of Facebook’s problems, this is at best short-sighted.

The platform’s content ecosystem is too poisoned for human or machine moderators to cleanse. Users are fleeing in droves, especially in the company’s most valuable markets. Ad buyers are already shifting dollars to competitors’ platforms. Governments are stepping up to dramatically hinder Facebook’s data-collection capabilities, with Germany just this week banning third-party data sharing. The company is under investigation by the FTC, the Justice Department, the SEC, the FBI, and several government agencies in Europe. It has been accused by the U.N. of playing a “determining role” in Myanmar’s genocide. An executive exodus is underway at the company. And we believe, sooner or later, Facebook’s board will see no option but to remove Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg.

The market is drastically underestimating the peril the company is in. In the very short term, the user backlash may simply hinder its revenue growth. In the longer-term, however, the institutionalized failure to see and respond to the platform’s downsides may render Facebook the Digital Age’s Enron — a canonized example of how greed and corruption can fell even the mightiest.

According to data recently released by Statcounter, Facebook’s global social media market share dropped from 75.5% in December 2017 to 66.3% in December 2018. The biggest drop was in the U.S., from 76% to 52%. As Cowen survey results released this week suggest, these engagement declines will continue to depress the company’s earnings. Surveying 50 senior U.S. ad buyers controlling a combined $14 billion in digital ad budgets in 2018, 18% said they were decreasing their spend on Facebook. As a result, Cowen estimates the Facebook platform will lose 3% of its market share.

No doubt Facebook’s struggles are not just about the headline scandals. For years, one innovation priority after another has fallen flat, from VR to its video push to its laggard position in the digital-assistant race. The company’s most significant “innovation” success of the past few years was copying the innovation of a competitor — pilfering Snapchat’s ephemerality for its “moments” feature.

However, it’s the scandals that have most crippled the company’s brand and revealed the cultural rot trickling down from its senior ranks. Consider just the most-sensational revelations that emerged in 4Q18:

  • Oct. 17: The Verge reports that Facebook knew about inaccuracies in the video viewership metrics that it provided to advertisers and brands for more than a year. “The inflated video views led both advertisers and media companies to bet too much on Facebook video.”
  • Nov. 14: The New York Times publishes an investigative report that reveals Facebook hired a conservative PR firm to smear competitors and minimize the company’s role in Russia’s 2016 election meddling.
  • Dec. 5: British lawmakers release 250 pages of internal Facebook emails that show that, “the company’s executives were ruthless and unsparing in their ambition to collect more data from users, extract concessions from developers and stamp out possible competitors,” as The New York Times reported.
  • Dec. 14: Facebook reveals that a bug allowed third-party app developers to access photos people may not have shared publicly, with as many as 6.8 million users potentially affected.
  • Dec. 17: Two Senate reports reveal the shocking extent of Russia’s efforts on social media platforms during the 2016 election, including the fact thatInstagram was their biggest tool for misinformation.
  • Dec. 18: The New York Times reports that Facebook gave the world’s largest technology companies far more intrusive access to user data than previously disclosed, including the Russian search firm Yandex.
  • Dec. 20: TechCrunch reports that, “WhatsApp chat groups are being used to spread illegal child pornography, cloaked by the app’s end-to-end encryption.”
  • Dec. 27: The New York Times obtains 1,400 pages of Facebook’s moderation guidelines and discovers an indecipherable mess of confusing language, bias, and obvious errors.

Scandal after scandal, the portrait of the company is the same: Ruthlessly and blindly obsessed with growth. Overwhelmed by that growth and unwilling to take necessary steps to compensate. Willing to lie and obfuscate until the truth becomes inescapable. And all the time excusing real-world consequences and clear violations of user and client trust because of the cultish belief that global interconnectedness is an absolute good, and therefore, Facebook is absolutely good.

The scale of Facebook’s global responsibility is staggering. As Naughton writes for The Guardian:

Facebook currently has 2.27bn monthly active users worldwide. Every 60 seconds, 510,000 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated and 136,000 photos are uploaded to the platform. Instagram, which allows users to edit and share photos as well as videos and is owned by Facebook, has more than 1bn monthly active users. WhatsApp, the encrypted messaging service that is also owned by Facebook, now has 1.5bn monthly active users, more than half of whom use it several times a day.

Relying on tens of thousands of moderators to anesthetize the digital commons is both inadequate, and based on the reported working conditions, unethical and exploitative. AI is not the solution either, as we explored in WILTW April 12, 2018. According to Wired, Facebook has claimed that 96% of the adult and nude images users try to upload are now automatically detected and taken down by AI. That sounds like a success until you consider that that error rate means 1.3 million such images made it to the public in the third quarter of 2018 alone (30.8 million were taken down).

In fact, the company has acknowledged that views with nudity or sexual content have nearly doubled in the 12 months ending in September. And detecting nudity is a far easier task for a rules-based algorithm than deciding the difference between real and fake news, between hate speech and satire, or between pornography and art.

Facebook has economically and culturally empowered hundreds of millions of people around the world. It cannot be blamed for every destabilized government, war, or murder in every region it operates. However, more and more, it’s clear that one profit-driven platform that connects all of the world’s people to all of the world’s information — the vision Zuckerberg has long had for his invention — is a terminally-flawed idea. It leads to too much power in the hands of too few. It allows bad actors to centralize their bad actions. And it is incompatible with a world that values privacy, ownership, and truth.

Governments are waking up to this problem. So is the public. And no doubt, so are competitive innovators looking to expand or introduce alternatives. Collectively, they will chip away at Facebook’s power and profitability. Given the company’s leaders still appear blinded by and irrevocably attached to their business model and ideals, we doubt they can stave off the onslaught coming.

Source: ZeroHedge

New Study Finds Facebook Page Reach has Declined 20% in 2017

It’s not just you and your Page – according to new research by BuzzSumo, the average number of engagements with Facebook posts created by brands and publishers has fallen by more than 20% since January 2017.

BuzzSumo analyzed more than 880 million Facebook posts from publisher and brand Pages over the past year, noting a clear decline in engagements since early 2017.

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That’s likely no surprise to most Facebook Page managers – organic reach on Facebook has been in decline since late 2013, according to various reports, with continual changes to the News Feed algorithm re-aligning the priority of what users see.

Indeed, in the past year, Facebook’s News Feed algorithm has seen a range of updates which could contribute to this decline:

  • In August last year, Facebook announced a News Feed update focused on improving the individual relevance of the stories shown to each user
  • In January, Facebook released a News Feed update which sought to better identify and rank authentic content
  • In May, the News Feed got another tweak, this time to reduce the reach of links to sites covered with ads
  • Also in May, Facebook released a News Feed change which aimed at reducing the reach of clickbait
  • And earlier this month, Facebook re-iterated the need for mobile optimization but announcing that links to non-mobile optimized pages would be penalized.

But then again, none of those changes individually correlates to the decline noted by BuzzSumo, which, as you can see, shifts significantly in January.

As listed above, the January News feed update focused onauthentic contentis not likely to have been the cause of this drop – that was more aimed at weeding out posts that artificially seek to game the algorithm by asking for Likes, and on pushing the reach of real-time content. Maybe Facebook’s increased focus on live, real-time material has had some impact, but it would seem unlikely that it’s the cause of that January drop.

What’s more likely is actually another News Feed update introduced in June 2016, which put increased emphasis on content posted by friends and family over Page posts. Facebook’s always looking to get people sharing more personal updates, and those updates generate more engagement, which keeps people on platform longer, while also providing Facebook with more data to fuel their ad targeting.

In terms of News Feed shifts, this one appears to be the most significant of recent times, but then again, the impacts of that would have been evident earlier in BuzzSumo’s chart. Maybe Facebook turned up the volume on this update in January? It’s obviously impossible to know, and Facebook’s doesn’t reveal much about the inner workings of their News Feed team.

 In terms of which posts, specifically, are driving engagement (or not), BuzzSumo found that:

“The biggest fall in engagement was with image posts and link posts. According to the data video posts had the smallest fall in engagement and videos now gain twice the level of engagement of other post formats on average.”

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Again, video is king – if you’re concerned about declines in your Facebook reach, then video is where you should be looking. Of course, video posts are also seeing reach declines in line with the overall shift, but they’re outperforming all others, and are likely to be your best bet in maximizing your reach on the platform.

So what can you do? However you look at it, Facebook is a huge driver of referral traffic for a great many websites, with many now having an established reliance on The Social Network to push their numbers.

For one, these figures again underline why putting too much reliance on Facebook is a strategic risk. Diversifying your traffic sources and building your own e-mail list is sometimes easier said than done, particularly given Facebook’s scale, but the figures do underline that it’s important to consider how you can maximize your opportunities outside of The Social Network.

In terms of how to improve your Facebook performance, specifically, there are no definitive answers.

Some brands have seen success in posting less often – back in May, Buffer explained that they’ve been able to triple their Facebook reach while reducing their output by 50%. Less is more is an attractive strategy, but whether that’ll work for your business, it’s impossible to say.

Others have switched to posting more often, something Facebook recommends in their own documentation on how journalists can make best use of the News Feed.

“Post frequently – Don’t worry about over-posting. The goal of News Feed is to show each person the most relevant story so not all of your posts are guaranteed to show in their Feeds.”

In fact, Facebook notes that some Pages post up to 80 times per day, which seems excessive, but when you consider both the reach restrictions (less than 5% of your audience will see each of your posts) and the fact that most people will see your content in their News Feed, as opposed to coming to your Facebook Page, the chances of you spamming fans by over-posting or re-posting are far more limited than they used to be.

If you post more often, and you get less engagement per post, that could still average out to increasing your overall numbers – though you need to watch your negative feedback measures (unfollows and unlikes).

Really, no one has the answers, because it’ll be different for each Page, each audience. The only real way to counter such declines is to experiment, to encourage engagement, to spark conversation and generate more reach through interaction. That takes more work, of course, and you then have to match that additional time investment with return.

Again, it’ll be different for every business, there’s no magic formula. But Facebook reach is clearly declining. Worth considering how that impacts your process. 

By Andrew Hutchinson | Social Media Today