I’m about to suggest something that I know won’t excite a lot of you at first, but I hope you’ll bear with me. I think Facebook should start charging a monthly fee for brand Pages. What?!
I’m sure we all agree that Facebook should be free for individuals who use Facebook to share information with friends and family. Their presence generates billions of dollars a year in advertising revenue even though they do not profit from its use themselves. On the other hand, businesses do profit from using Facebook — many of them are making millions of dollars a year from it — and, in my opinion, Facebook certainly has a right to some compensation from those businesses. The problem is that Facebook has decided the way to make money from Pages is to limit the number of posts fans see in their newsfeeds and then telling us that if we pay they’ll show our posts to more of them. They throttle our posts using an algorithm called Edgerank. If you’re not familiar with Edgerank or how it works, please Google it.
Recently a few well-known companies, including advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather, have accused Facebook of adjusting the Edgerank algorithm to decrease the number of posts a Page’s fans see. Those allegations have yet to be proven, although many of us have noticed a sizable drop in our post reach numbers; but even if it’s not true, there is a logical reason why Edgerank affects Pages far more than individuals. Fans engage with a Page far less frequently than they do with their friends, and the less an individual engages with a Page, the lower the chances of that Page’s posts making it into their newsfeed. To alleviate that problem, Facebook has begun charging a fee to those who decide to “promote” their posts so more of their fans will see them.
The latest numbers indicate that as of April there are 42 million Pages on Facebook. Those include pages for 4 million businesses with the rest belonging to popular figures, sports teams and fan-generated community Pages. Perhaps we should give community Pages a pass as well as non-profits. Obviously non-profits aren’t going to profit financially from those Pages, although they could greatly benefit in other ways, so I’m not sure about that one. Perhaps a reduced fee for non-profits. I have no way of knowing how many community and non-profit Pages there are but the number Facebook would be working with if they did charge a fee would be considerably higher than the 4 million company Pages.
Please note that I’m not suggesting Facebook should do away with promoted posts. Promoted posts are just a way to make sure more fans will see a post and are similar to “sponsored stories” (only better) because they show in the newsfeed instead of a sidebar, and they don’t look like advertising. Actually, I think promoted posts are brilliant. The only problem I have with them is that no one is going to pay to promote all of their posts; and since an average of only 16% of our fans see our non-promoted posts, most of them never have the chance to read what we say.
The first question is how much would someone pay to have a business Page on Facebook? I realize that’s a loaded question because surely a company like Coca-Cola would be able to justify paying thousands of dollars a month. So the question is how much would the “average” business be able to justify paying? Would $19.95 a month be unreasonable? I don’t think so; and if you can’t generate $20 a month from your Page, you’re not getting enough benefit to justify wasting your time on Facebook in the first place. Maybe the price could be based on the number of fans the Page has, starting at free for less than 100 and then starting at $9.95 a month for more than a hundred all the way up to a few hundred a month for Pages with hundreds of thousands of fans.
So, for the sake of argument, let’s say that out of the 42 million Pages on Facebook, 10 million of them belong to a company or individual who is using that Page to generate a profit. Let’s also assume that most of them would consider $20 a month a fair price to pay to reach more fans organically and will still pay to promote posts for which they want to generate a much higher reach. In theory, that would generate $200 million a month or $2.4 billion a year in addition to the revenue from the promoted posts.
The second question is what would we expect for our $20 a month? Simple; a fair shake with Edgerank. I suggest that Facebook tweak their algorithm for Pages so that a fan would not need to engage as often to achieve an Edgerank score that would result in a lot more of that Page’s posts showing up in their newsfeed. It would be especially important to include a grace period until those fans actually have a chance to engage with a Page they just liked. If Edgerank keeps a Page’s posts from showing to fans who don’t engage with that Page, then obviously a new fan would never see any posts to engage with in the first place.
If Page owners know they aren’t talking to the wall when they post something, I don’t think they’ll have a problem paying a small monthly fee to use Facebook; and if they feel they’re getting some real value from having a Page, they’ll also have no problem paying to promote some of their posts to reach more fans. It’s a win-win for Facebook and a win for Page owners.
Copyright © 2013 HughBriss.com
Hugh Briss is the owner of Social Identities.