Should Facebook get rid of promoted posts?

The new feature takes brands off the network’s previously level playing field. As a result, both brands and fans lose, this PR pro says.

The awesome thing about the Web, and social media in particular, is it levels the playing field. No longer do you need millions of dollars to spend on PR firms and ad agencies to build your brand and reputation among the masses.

Today all you need is a good writer, a self-hosted website and/or blog, and organically grown social networks. With those three things, you can suddenly compete with the big boys for reputation and credibility. People see you as a thought leader in your industry. You create kinship among your prospects. And you sell in a way that has never before been possible.

All of the tools are free, so it’s a low barrier to entry. And it works.

The big social networks continue to run their platforms free to us because they consider us the product, not the user.

We’re the product

Take Google, for example. Google has been successful because it keeps introducing free features—analytics, blogging, RSS feeds, Google+, docs, hangouts, and more. The thinking is, of course, if it offers really good free features we’ll continue to use them, which boosts Google’s page views and drives advertising.

Advertisers are Google’s users. We are the product. And it works really well for Google. After all, it has a market cap of $250 billion.

So why is Facebook trying to squeeze more money out of its users? Why not look at us as Google does—as the product?

Sure, I understand Facebook is now a public company and it has to find new ways to make money, but there are several business models before it lighting the path.

If your business has a Facebook page, you’ve likely seen a decrease in likes and interaction. We have one client who went from 10,300 interactions per day to less than 3,000 overnight.

Promoted posts

Why? Because the client isn’t using promoted posts to increase its visibility. In other words, it’s not paying Facebook to show its updates to the more than 63,000 people who voluntarily liked its page and opted in to have it in their streams.

Only 30 percent of those people see the updates. The other 70 percent? The client has to set aside a budget to pay to promote its posts to those people.

Yes, those people who already said, “Hey Facebook! We want updates from this company.”

If the client were to pay for it, it would need a budget of $228,800 to reach the people it reached for free before the social network’s IPO earlier this spring.

Small business implication

I run a small business in Chicago. We update our Facebook page 20-25 times per week. We have just a tad more than 3,500 fans, so Facebook wouldn’t charge us as much per post as our client. But we’d still have to spend $25,000-$30,000 to reach the people who voluntarily liked our page.

I would have to decide if it’s more important to reach all 3,500 of our fans or pay for half a person to help service clients. I think you know which way I’d lean.

Suddenly the playing field is no longer level. We’re both the product and the user at Facebook.

Seems like a pretty big conflict of interest.

Gini Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks.

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