Virality is dead, long live Buyrality

Those were the days when you had a crazy idea, made an even more crazy internet meme, put it up on Facebook, shared it amongst your friends and it went viral. Those were the days, yes; those were Facebook’s pre-IPO-days. Ever since the blue social media conglomerate took on public shareholders the game changed on the web. All of a sudden, FB had to proof it’s monetary value and that they can actually make money out of something that was supposed to connect people for free in the first place.

We accepted a long time ago that FB monetizes on our private data in exchange for providing the perfect platform to create your own virtual influence universe while establishing your fake web persona. An illusion blown out of proportion by 2000 friends and a Klout score of 73 that manifests your global online celebrity status. Now, FB goes further and capitalizes on this very attention addiction of its users and turns their wallets against their egos.

FB controls 100% what goes viral on their own platform since October 2012. If you want to reach someone, let it be your page fans or even your own mother, you going to pay for it. Sponsored posts, FB ads, in-stream ads, in-search ads, whatever it takes to push your own stats back to the numbers of 2 months ago, you pay!

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The outcry on blogs was loud when the news stream algorithm changed, post reaches dropped 40%. Most effected FB pages. Some posted advices like “add us to a list to make sure you still see our posts”. But it was already to late.

I was reading on various pages that this 40% decrease was more less a fantasy number. Reality was far bleaker than expected. One said, his page had around 9K likes and an average of 2K reach on regular posts. Now, with FB’s new indirect paywall, one post reaches barely 200.  Yes, that’s right, that would be 10% of his previous reach, not 40% less.

But what is “reach”? What does actually count as reach? FB provides us with metrics that we take for granted. We build entire startups around them, yes even weekly community meetings. But ultimately no one exactly knows what goes into those numbers and how reliable they are.

The story is the same everywhere. Our own company page on FB does not have 9K likes, we got a modest 239, but still can feel the impact. A regular post would reach about 100 page followers. Now, it’s down to 60-70. Posts that reach beyond 100 are usually photos with people tagged inside.

Biggest difference for us was, that we not only lost reach but also interactions. Regular posts would have a couple of likes and some comments from time to time. Now, the majority of posts are doomed to rot as unliked social media zombie.

Hence, it’s no far stretch to think that a post, which has supposedly a reach of 70, isn’t actually seen by anyone since there is no indication of existence outside the page at all. When you run a FB page you will know that the majority of fans don’t see the content on the page itself but rather “mirrored” in their news stream. So it’s safe to say, FB’s new algorithm cuts you off the streams, you’re isolated.

We came up with a little survey post to simply see who can actually see page posts at all. Those were the findings:

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 (all data as of November 12, 2012)

Stats
  • Lifetime post reach: 156
  • Lifetime post organic reach: 101
  • Lifetime post paid reach: 3
  • Lifetime post viral reach: 59
  • Lifetime post total impressions: 539
  • Lifetime post organic impressions: 378
  • Lifetime post viral impressions: 158
  • Lifetime engaged users: 22
  • Lifetime talking about this: 16
  • Lifetime post stories: 20
  • Lifetime post consumers: 19
  • Lifetime post consumption: 61
  • Lifetime negative feedback: 2
  • Lifetime Post Impressions by people who have liked your Page: 371
  • Lifetime Post Reach by people who like your Page: 90
  • Lifetime Post Paid Impressions by people who have liked your page: 1
  • Lifetime People who have liked your Page and engaged with: 18
  • Lifetime People Talking About your post by those who have liked your Page: 15

Take from those numbers whatever you want. What strikes me most are two groups of numbers: 1) The paid reach, since we never sponsored the post. We intended to, in order to test this option too and provide two seperate sets of numbers but couldn’t due to technical reasons. 2) The negative feedback. Obviously this post was so offensive for two of our page followers that they muted it on their own news stream.

But who did we actually reach with the post as the purpose of this survey? Out of all those numbers we can only be sure on the people who liked (15 on the page, 2 off page), commented (1) and sort of disliked (2) the post and this would be 19 out of 239, 8% of all page followers!

Of course, this is no real sample case study to proof anything, especially since our page got comparatively low like numbers. But chances are the findings and theory above apply to most pages.

I was stunned to see that a local ad agency who pivot their core business to FB marketing in the past months seems to suffer from a far greater effect of FB’s changes than ours. While we run a micro community on our page that is more likely to engage, they boost up their like numbers via FB’s ad offers and created “own” strategies (which are quite universal as FB provides the rules and playground of this game in specific detail). They started with a similar like number like us back in June/July 2012. Now, they passed the 7k mark. Their sponsored posts are everywhere, 24/7. But now things become obvious. Posts that have not been sponsored reach an average of 15-25 likes. Sponsored posted come in at 200+ likes. So do the math on your own here.

Naturally, this agency makes money and got loads of running clients, cause we’re in a vicious spiral here. Once you crossed a certain social media stats peak you’re willing to pay to keep it up there and you’re even more willing to pay additional premiums to get numbers higher.

Companies who justified their business with social media numbers are hooked at this point. They can’t afford to loose out now even though such numbers are entirely unrelated to their real life sales/business. The wheel keeps spinning, the bubble keeps blowing up.

So let me close with a US ad agency video that brilliantly sums up the state of mind Facebook and most other social media page
s are at, on their strive to monetize imaginary assets:

– John St. explains what Buyral is:

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