Facebook Nudging Publishers to Spend Money for Sponsored Posts

Facebook has become a massive engine for content dissemination, driving three times the referral traffic of all other social networks combined. With a pool

Facebook has become a massive engine for content dissemination, driving three times the referral traffic of all other social networks combined. With a pool of 1.35 billion users, the potential is great for publisher sites to reach a wide audience.Yet last month Facebook announced it is going to punish overly self-promotional brands by de-emphasizing their posts as part of an effort to drive users to its new “sponsored posts” advertising platform.Currently, any company can promote its content by posting articles on its company page. But just simply sharing a piece of content isn’t going put you in front of a wider audience than your followers, unless it goes “viral” and rides the wave as Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm, which now favors content that has a relatively higher level of likes and shares.In order to foster more “likes” and shares, Facebook has made it possible for companies to “promote a post.” By paying money, companies can target “People who like your page” or “People who like your page and their friends.” Facebook also gives you the ability to target by location, interests, age, and gender.But by de-emphasizing “overly promotional posts,” Facebook is pretty much forcing companies to become advertisers on the social network. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — Facebook Ads manager has behavioral advertising features that let you target audiences compiled from customer contacts (i.e., email lists) and website or mobile traffic.This development may be seen as an attempt by Facebook to cut in on and monetize so-called “dark social” content, the term for content that is shared through channels that aren’t measured by analytics software. This can include shares through instant messaging, email, apps, and mobile rather through a browser. A recent study by RadiumOne shows that Dark Social sharing outpaces all sharing channels combined.Another study from Chartbeat claims that much of this dark social traffic comes from Facebook’s mobile apps. This means that content publishers are most likely underestimating their Facebook traffic, and the new sponsored updates are a way that Facebook is trying to divert and monetize some of it.Either way, however, Facebook needs content, and publishers are the target audience that it wants to monetize. Given the social network’s consumer reach, it knows publishers can’t afford to ignore the platform. So publishers would be wise to expect more turning of the financial screws in years to come.

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