There’s a lot of inaccurate information out there about the way Facebook is promoting posts from people who pay for it. Some of this misinformation comes from writers using their experiences as an example of how things happen to everyone on Facebook, not realizing they’re different than many other people on the service or other people who use the “follow” option (formerly known as “subscribe.”) There’s also an unfortunate tendency to not check facts with Facebook.
We should not take Facebook at its word but we should at least give it a chance to explain how it sets the rules. We can judge for ourselves how honest they’re being. It’s far worse to assume. This isn’t an entirely new thing for Facebook, Sponsored Stories were rolled out back in January of 2011. This resurfaced because of an article by Nick Bilton at the New York Times who suddenly seemed to notice his Facebook posts were not seeing the same number of comments, likes and shares as they once did. (Update 3/6: Nick does cite Facebook’s statement that although “people who have more than 10,000 subscribers is up 34 percent from a year ago” they also admitted to him ”there has been a 2 percent drop in interaction on the news feed.”)
Misconception #1: Sponsored/Promoted Content is replacing organic content on Facebook I spoke to Vadim Lavrusik, Facebook’s journalism program manager. Here’s what he told me:
“One important thing to understand is that when someone promotes a post in feed and pays to promote it, the stuff that’s getting distribution organically still gets distribution, it doesn’t get replaced from feed. It may get a lower placement, but it doesn’t get replaced. And the placement of the sponsored post or promoted post is also based on the quality of that post (so promoted content still has a quality algorithm attached to it.) If the promoted post isn’t that good, it gets lower placement, but it will get more distribution either way because it’s being paid for, but it’s still takes quality into account.
The claim that I’ve seen explains it as if these paid posts replace organic posts, which isn’t the case. The News Feed algorithm is separate from the advertising algorithm in that we don’t replace the most engaging posts in News Feed with sponsored ones.”