Social media is not free: Facebook, Google want money for distribution

When money buys traffic you can bet the web experience will be mediocre and worse.
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

Big or small, the Facebook strategy for most brands has been to collect as many “likes” as possible. Facebook is now planning to monetize that strategy by charging companies for newsfeed distribution.

For much of this year Facebook has been gradually cutting back on distribution of a brand’s messages to Facebook users that “like” the brand. Now, it’s offering a way for brands to regain that distribution by paying for it, reports Cotton Delo at Ad Age:

[Facebook] states plainly: “We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.”

Foremski’s Take: All that work to get people to “like” a brands’ Facebook page has been neatly integrated into Facebook’s business model.

Social media was never free but in the early years it seemed that way when companies could get huge distribution of their messaging for seemingly little work. Then as the number of media channels fragmented, it became less free because of the extra management required but the distribution was free. Now the distribution is being locked away and will cost money.

All in all, overall marketing costs are going to go up, way up, as other media channels start to monetize their traffic. Google, for example, is killing search engine optimization services because it wants to sell distribution instead of giving it away through SEO influenced organic search.

Google filters from the inbox of Gmail users all promotional email newsletters and puts them into a separate folder. Google sees them as competitors for the same budgets so why make it easy for them? 

How soon before Forbes and LinkedIn start charging their users to distribute their articles? Publishing without distribution is useless.  There’s a huge market in vanity publishing among professionals in every industry sector.

It was the users that built the community and now those users have to pay to interact with their communities. Facebook and LinkedIn are becoming the gatekeepers to information flow and there’s a toll to pay if you want to reach every member of your community.

There’s not going to be much free traffic ahead which means the quality of the content is secondary to the money.

When distribution is free, content is distributed widely and filtered on its merits. But what happens when traffic is bought by money and not by virtue? The web will become a very dull and mediocre experience.

Which is a good thing because we won’t be missing much. We seem to be transitioning into an everyday reality where our technology is disappearing into the woodwork, into the framework, creating a blended reality where there is no web, and none of its glittering distractions. I can’t wait!

The disappearing web...

It means the world wide web is a temporary Internet phenomena. There’s no need for web sites and web experiences when we’re mobile with our digital technology, and surrounded by our technologies. When they overlay and underlay reality.

There’s no place for a HTML page in that future, which is already here in places. The end of the web is near. Which is why Facebook is concentrating on the underlying technologies of connections between people - so that when the web goes away it does’t matter because its community technologies stay relevant and have a good chance of becoming a de facto standard, built into the woodwork of tomorrow, as dependable and ubiquitous as a chair.

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