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Minus Like: Facebook Feature Reportedly Cuts off Thumbs

facebook brand text status

Did you see the guest post from Mark Zuckerberg on this blog earlier this month?  It was essentiallyFacebook’s open letter to small business.

It was a fun guest post (haven’t seen any alerts in GWMT yet either) and it gave me some contacts I might not otherwise have had. After reading Chris Penn’s post, Facebook wants you to post more pictures of kittens, I reached out to those contacts for the scoop.

First, the facts as Chris says:

“Facebook announced yesterday that they’re applying a News Feed algorithm change that will penalize text-only updates from Pages. Brands, companies, personalities, bands, musicians, politicians, and anyone else who uses Facebook Pages will now have their text-only updates seen less in the News Feed.”

That’s write, Facebook is saying words do not matter, so my sources tell me it’s introducing a new feature: the minus like.

“Without a thumb, it might be hard to grasp the notion of a minus like”

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The Minus Like

My fictional inside contact at Facebook is telling me that the company plans to take this a step further, because reducing engagement to 3% of fans isn’t enough. Those brands that post text only updates are now subject to the minus like. The icon representing the minus like is still under review, but my source points out a thumb could go in any direction, or even be removed.

Without a thumb, it might be hard to grasp the notion of a minus like – so let’s break it down: Anytime brands post a text only update, Facebook will subtract likes from its previous posts. Since brands aren’t getting any likes anymore, unless they pay for them, this has proven to be a bit of a dilemma for software engineers, so the company is also planning an alibi:  the reduction is prorated based on a formula tied to the amount of your social ad spend with the company.

Users should be paying to promote selfies to their friends

For example, if you have 100 fans on your page, and have never spent any money with Facebook you’ll lose one like per text-only post.  If you have 100 fans on your page and spend $1 on social advertising per month, Facebook will apply a yet-to-be-proven math equation known as Beal’s Conjecture and subtract only a portion of one like. Current understanding is that works out to an arbitrary number, selected at random odds favorable to Facebook, unless a brand ups its spend.

Word from inside is that Facebook has plans to roll this out to personal accounts soon as well.  “Users should be paying to promote selfies to their friends,” my source said. In addition, along with segmented newsfeed tests, the company is piloting a “redemption” of fans. There’s a proposal kicking around that suggests brands can earn .5 fans back for every fan lost by liking a post on Facebook’s own Facebook page.

Facebook advocates worry such a feature could be gamed and upset Faecbook’s unfair leverage to squeeze money from the little guy. So the company will implement 104 page document outlining its terms of service no one could possibly read on a mobile device — and every brand must like it or risk having their page deleted.  Some restrictions may apply and this patent-pending algorithm is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any diseases.

if a user likes a page, Facebook is uncertain whether he or she actually likes a page or just likes a page

So, like, why is Facebook doing this?

Facebook users have just liked too many things and Facebook needs to understand what users like.  For example, if a user likes a page, Facebook is uncertain whether he or she actually likes a page or just likes a page. A like doesn’t necessarily mean they like a page.  With apologies to the introverts and lurkers, absent active engagement, a like is kind of, like, vague.

The Problem with Facebook

Obviously, this post is a rant, which historically I’ve generally avoided writing; I’m trying to soften it by being funny.  Of course, humor doesn’t always translate the way it’s intended, and I am taking a risk in publishing such posts, so let me finish with a more serious note.

I want Facebook to make money.  I’ve found the service to be pleasurable for many years and a profitable company ensures its viability. But the things the company is doing are over-the-top-out-of-control. It really is ruining the experience.

There are very real risks here.  The company has an atrociously poor relationship with its users and has develop a reputation for heavy-handed tactics. Facebook has earned this reputation over time and that is even more important because of its use-case:  People visit Facebook to socialize, as opposed to look for information they need. No one needs Facebook – it’s nice to have – but has no place on Maslow’s hierarchy.

If it crashed tomorrow, what will we, as users, have truly lost?  Not much.  Like the waves of the ocean swallowing a giant ship, it’ll be a smooth surface after it’s gone and we’ll barely remember it a year later as we swim safely in our life-preservers to other sites.

I believe people are not opposed to paying a fair price for a good service.  The problem with Facebook is that it’s become a bit like a casino: you know the odds are stacked against you when you walk in the door. You get in the game to have fun and lose a little money over free drinks. That might be all fun and good for a weekend trip to Sin City, but it’s unsustainable as a business model, and with Facebook, it’s just not fun to pour money into emptiness while sober.

Facebook too is making a bet – it’s betting that people are either too invested or too lazy to leave. But that’s very risky territory too and the company won’t truly know what is happening until the groundswell rises.  Remember that book?  It’s still valid and it applies to social networks too.

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