Actor George Takei has been a fierce opponent of the way Facebook determines which users see certain posts from pages. After reading an open letter from an aggravated page administrator to Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Takei said he’s writing about Facebook’s algorithm — which many people refer to as EdgeRank — in his upcoming book.
Sergio Toporek, the director of Beware of Images, a documentary about the relationship between the technology, regulation, and social effects of mass media, published an open letter to Zuckerberg Wednesday, unhappy that the site is asking him to pay to reach fans he’s already acquired. He pleaded that as a nonprofit, he can’t afford much more than he’s already paying for Facebook marketing. Toporek criticized Zuckerberg for giving into financial interests and worries about the future of the site:
Still, it has become evident to anyone using the platform for community building that its recent direction is not guided by technological limitations, but by economic pressures. On my page, I have seen activity decline drastically, even as it constantly gains new members. When I finally received a reply from Facebook regarding this issue, I was advised to address it by spending on promoted posts.
I have made great sacrifices to pay for Facebook ads, and they have helped me gain new members. Directing an independent, not-for-profit project, I can’t afford to spend more on your platform than what I already do. Truthfully speaking, after investing much time, money, and effort building a community which I’m now being limited to reach, I find Facebook’s current practices disconcerting. Not only because you’re preventing me from reaching members I’ve already paid to connect with, but because you’ve basically broken your own functioning system in order to sell us the solution.
Toporek’s open letter caught the attention of Takei, a virtual Facebook celebrity and opponent of the site’s algorithm. He posted to Beware of Images’ wall that he’ll be writing about this topic in his next book:
I read with interest your letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. I am also curious as to why interactivity rates on my page appear to fluctuate so much when I have done nothing different. I have not been pressured to use promoted pages, but I have had to take active steps to get fans to add my page to their “interests” so that it has a higher likelihood of appearing in their news feed.
I am writing a chapter in my book, Oh Myyy, about EdgeRanking and what I have done to try and achieve higher engagement. I hope you can find some takeaways in that. It should be out around Thanksgiving for those who have pre-ordered it.
This is a very complex, polarizing topic on Facebook. Brands who have worked hard to acquire fans are frustrated that only a fraction of their fan bases actually sees their posts. Larger companies, which can spend big money on Facebook campaigns, are able to get into their fans’ news feeds through avenues such as sponsored stories. However, many users want a cleaner, ad-free (or, at least, ad-light) Facebook experience and do not want their news feed cluttered with posts from pages, bumping status updates and photos from friends.
Facebook has tried to balance these two desires, giving users a little more control in viewing posts from pages they truly want to see and allowing pages to reach more of the fans they’ve connected with. The site came out with two big changes that it is testing: allowing users to opt in for notifications whenever a page updates, and a separate pages feed, containing all posts from the entities that users have liked.
Facebook’s algorithm tends to push posts that are more engaging onto users’ news feeds. The higher the chance for a like, comment, or share, the better the odds are that a fan will see the post.
Readers: What would you do if you were in Facebook’s shoes?