TechCrunch put an article out on August 23, 2013 reporting that Facebook will soon begin to punish “LOLCats-style memes” in the Facebook newsfeed. Facebook believes memes are low quality content, but did not explain why, and I disagree both with their contempt for memes and their decision not to explain their distaste for meme content.
This action is a huge shift in Facebook’s modus operandi. It’s new for them to make a judgment, a judgment based on standards having nothing to do with what people interact with, on the quality of any type of content. (I’m not talking about things that are illegal or indecent—we have clear cultural standards for age, alcohol, medications, sexual content and the like, and I support those guidelines.)
The newsfeed algorithm’s job is to identify what people interact with, thus improving the quality of their feed. Now, Facebook is saying you’re wrong. “You are too stupid to recognize quality posts. Even though you interact with these memes, we’ll help you be more sophisticated by not showing them to you.” Instead of relying on their democratically-driven newsfeed algorithm, Facebook will apply its own aesthetic, with no explanation of that aesthetic.
This decision hurts small businesses the most
For the last year, among other things I teach, I’ve shown companies how to leverage memes to help their business market on Facebook. Many companies, especially small ones, are at a disadvantage in this new world of publishing interesting content EVERY day.
How does the understaffed, undertrained, and underfunded small business create something new and effective every day? The fuel that social media burns is novelty. Sometimes you achieve novelty with something just a little bit new, or by combining two old things to get attention. Memes accomplish that. They are a time-efficient and effective way to get a message out.
I find Facebook’s new meme policy a disturbing precedent, because whatever alternatives to memes we develop may later be penalized as well. If Facebook says memes are crappy, what do they view as ideal content? Should we just expect years of case-by-case elimination of certain kinds of content? I think Facebook just stepped onto a slippery slope: judging content apart from illegal or indecent things, and it disturbs me that their policy is not better defined.
Why Facebook will probably get away with it
Facebook can do whatever they want, and despite user griping, people won’t leave. How many people left when they got mad about having to pay to promote their posts? They’re making more money than ever, and if Facebook continues on this path of censoring posting tactics that work, companies will have to pay more for visibility. There’s a financial gain for them here in this unexplained decision.
I have no problem with Facebook making money, and I love marketing with it. I’m a huge evangelist for them and have written two books about selling on Facebook. I look forward to continuing that, but I completely disagree with this particular decision. What do you think?
Brian Carter is the co-author of the bestselling book “Facebook Marketing,” and author of the newly updated second edition of the internationally bestselling book “The Like Economy.” A version of this article first appeared on Convince & Convert.