Updated: Mar 9, 2020
”Founded: February 2004
The platform was called Thefacebook.com until August 2005.
In a 2006 survey of the top five “in” things on college campuses, Facebook tied with beer but scored lower than iPods.
The “Like” button was originally supposed to be called the “Awesome” button.
Mark Zuckerberg initially rejected photo sharing; he had to be persuaded that it was a good idea by then-president Sean Parker.
There were more than a billion monthly active users as of December 2012.
There were 680 million monthly active users of Facebook mobile products as of December 2012.
One out of every five page views in the United States is on Facebook.
Let me say that again: ONE OUT OF EVERY FIVE PAGE VIEWS IN THE UNITED STATES IS ON FACEBOOK!
What more could possibly be said about Facebook? We all know what it is and what it does. We all know it’s the biggest, baddest social network, the one that changed our culture as monumentally as television. While still skeptical about most other social media platforms, small business owners, marketers, and brand managers consider Facebook a legitimate marketing tool, though, strangely enough, not because it has the most sophisticated analytics available. Rather, they trust it because it’s hard to dismiss a platform as skewing too young, or too experimental, or too trendy, when your niece, your brother, your seventy-two-year-old dad, and more than a billion other people are on it. Familiarity breeds acceptance. Only the most stubborn holdouts, mostly from companies working B2B or just contrarians, question whether their customer is actually on Facebook and whether it’s worth maintaining a presence there.
It stands to reason that if this is the platform with which most people are familiar, it’s the one that requires the least explanation. Yet this chapter ended up being the longest in this book, because although most marketers think they understand Facebook, they obviously don’t. If they did, consumers would be seeing much different content, not just on Facebook, but across all platforms. For now, however, the majority of brands and businesses still haven’t realized the unprecedented insight Facebook gives us into people’s lives and psychology, insight that allows marketers to optimize every jab, every piece of micro-content, and every right hook.
Think about why people go to Facebook: to connect, socialize, and catch up on what the people they know and presumably care about are doing. In the process, they also find out what their friends and acquaintances are reading, listening to, wearing, and eating; what causes they are championing; what ideas they’re hatching; what jobs they’re hunting; and where they are going. Facebook wants users to see things that they find relevant, fun, and useful, not annoying and pointless, or else they’ll abandon the site. Which means you’d better create content that’s relevant, fun, and useful, too.
Now, if it were that easy, this really would be a short chapter. Hire better creatives, make better content, and you’d be good to go. The problem is that there are three forces that have made it more difficult than it used to be for even the most talented creatives to organically deliver awesome content on Facebook: the masses, the evolution of the masses, and Facebook’s response to the evolution of the masses.
The very thing that makes marketers want to have a presence on Facebook—the sheer number of users—makes the platform a marketing challenge. A billion users, and all the content they generate, creates a conundrum: with so many pieces of content streaming into consumers’ News Feeds and competing for attention, it’s unlikely they will see any content you post, even the good stuff.
In addition, users are human. They age and mature. They grow up, break up, have kids, quit the guitar, take up fencing, or go vegetarian. The user who became your fan in 2010 will not be the same fan in 2014. But even though he’s changed, he probably hasn’t thought to go back and remove outdated information about his tastes and preferences on Facebook. We’re always going to follow more people and brands than we need to. We may not be watching this TV show anymore nor following that actor, but we don’t unfollow their pages as we move on in life. As those bygone interests fade from our consciousness, we expect them to fade from our pages and News Feeds, too.
Facebook knows this. Long ago, when college students were the biggest population on Facebook and the user pool was relatively small, people’s News Feeds were organized chronologically. But as the user base grew—and grew and grew—Facebook had to figure out how to prevent users’ streams from getting clogged up with posts they weren’t interested in. It didn’t want to be Twitter, with its waterfall of content from every person, organization, brand, and business in which users ever expressed interest; it wanted to curate our News Feed and make sure the majority of what we saw was always important and relevant to us. To help mitigate the consequences of literal TMI, Facebook finally settled on an algorithm called EdgeRank. Every interaction a person has with Facebook, from posting a status update or a photo, to liking, sharing, or commenting, is called an “edge,” and theoretically, every edge channels into the news stream. But not everyone who could see these edges actually does, because EdgeRank is constantly reading algorithmic tea leaves to determine which edges are most interesting to the most number of people. It tracks all the engagement a user’s own content receives, as well as the engagement a user has with other people’s or brands’ content. The more engagement a user has with a piece of content, the stronger EdgeRank believes that user’s interest will be in similar content, and it filters that person’s news stream accordingly (a randomizer ensures that occasionally we’ll see a post from someone we haven’t talked to in years, thus keeping Facebook fresh and surprising). For example, EdgeRank makes sure that a user who often likes or comments on a friend’s photos, but who ignores that friend’s plain-text status updates, will see more of that friend’s photos and fewer of his status updates. Every engagement, whether between friends or between users and brands, strengthens their connection and the likelihood that EdgeRank will push appropriate content from those friends and brands to the top of a user’s News Feed. That’s of course where you, the marketer, want to see your brand or business.
That’s why it’s never been more important to produce quality content that people want to actually interact with—a brand’s future visibility on the platform depends on its current customer engagement levels (and soon this trend will spread to all the other platforms, as well). Unfortunately, the engagement that marketers most want to see—purchases—is not the engagement that Facebook’s algorithm measures, and therefore not the engagement that ultimately affects visibility. More than anything else, marketers want users to respond to their right hooks. That’s why they put so many out there. What they don’t realize, however, is that on Facebook, it’s the user’s response to a jab that matters most.”-Page 43, “Jab, Jab, Jab! Right Hook” by Gary Vaynerchuk