There’s been all sorts of shit flying around recently about how Facebook is blowing it and I thought I would write something about the part that seems to have annoyed me the most.
I scrubbed my personal info and all my friends off Facebook a couple months back and I only use the account to manage the 40 or so band pages I am an administrator of, so all the personal privacy shit, while I find it offensive, doesn’t affect me much. What does get to me however, was the recent change Facebook made on Pages, switching from giving users the option to “Become a Fan” to what they see now, which is the call to “Like” the page or artist.
For the longest time, Facebook was simply not very useful for musicians. Posts they made to their pages didn’t get pushed into the users social stream and since this is the main channel in which most Facebook content is consumed, the band posts might as well not even exist. The artist content was simply not on the average user’s radar. They were just another out of the way destination and artist websites and Myspace pages index higher in search results. People needed to be drawn in to these pages and until Facebook brought Page updates into the social stream this didn’t happen.
Once this happened, there was finally a good reason to pay attention to Facebook for a band. We all sorta knew/hoped that this day would come. Every post you made was pushed in to the social stream of everyone who was a “Fan” of the page and users began to share your content amongst their friends. The highest form of organic growth was taking place. We started to talk about Facebook Page Fans in the same way we would talk about email names. Marketers began to spend ad money specifically driving people to become a fan of an artist’s page. It was a valuable new tribe to manage for artists.
And part of the reason that these “Fans” were becoming really valuable was due to simple semantics. The action of “becoming a fan”, although easily reversed, is perceived as making a commitment by most people. It would brand you socially as being associated with that artist. I’ve always thought you actually had to really be into a band to be a fan of their page (unless you are someone who “fans” everything they casually like, but most people aren’t) as Facebook would tell all your friends that you had just become a fan of such and such band. It was very much like the offline world, where chances are you’re not wearing the shirt of a band you don’t really give a shit about.
Then a long came “Like” a few weeks back. I guess that for a majority of things out there on the web, it might make more sense to say you like it. Most people aren’t passionate enough about lots of things to the point they would consider themselves a “fan”. Fans tend to be serious boosters for whatever they are fans of, be it a sports team, a band, a graphic novel series. Check out the definition of Fan, it sounds somewhat intense. And of the many things in life you might consider yourself a fan of, how many would you consider yourself enough of a fan to display the fact openly, wear it on your digital sleeve so to speak? For many people, I’d bet it’s not more than a dozen and that’s not enough clicking/sharing/growth for Facebook I’m guessing.
So what do you do when people aren’t opting in enough? One, not always best, option is to lower the barrier to entry. We see this all the time. The current economic crisis is more or less the result of this thinking. And this is exactly the path Facebook decided to stroll down on our behalf when they switched their words around a couple weeks back. By removing the mental psudo double opt-in that was taking place by using the term “Become A Fan”, they altered the chemistry of the process that grants marketers access to the user, but not what access that permission grants, thus greatly devaluing said permission.
What does this mean for artists? Why do I care if there’s more people who care less? Well, for one it’s going to be a lot harder to reach and motivate a band’s fan army. The more bands someone “likes”, the more noise they have in their social stream. If the level of permission required to reach people is decreased, the less relevant and anticipated most of the messaging they chose to receive will be. Your message is going to be lost in a sea of infinite messages. Sound familiar? It should, it’s exactly what happened with Myspace.
Now, I’m not entirely sure what the long term effects of this devaluation of engagement are going to be but what I’m seeing already is not great. Since the change over to like all the pages I manage have experienced a serious spike in “Fans” or what used to be Fans and is now “Like-ers(?)”, but almost an across the board decrease in engagement actions taken with content, commenting, liking, sharing, etc. It would seem, on some level, the great Facebook tune out has already begun.
For the sake of artists having other solid permission based marketing channels besides just email and text messaging, something that I think is valuable to both the bands and the fans ultimately, I wish Facebook would bring back “Become A Fan”, if even only just for musicians.