I’ve been helping musicians with their digital marketing since 2009, long enough to remember when Facebook seemed like it would be Savior of the Arts. In those days, we were frustrated that our custom Myspace coding kept breaking and happy to run to newly-opened business pages on Facebook. Having fans actually hear music on Facebook pages was always a challenge since the available third-party apps kept going out of business — but hey, what artist didn’t want to be on the hot new social network made popular by elite college kids?
We pushed our fanbases to Like our Facebook artist pages and took pride in our number of Likes just as we had our number of Myspace plays. Little did we know that Facebook would thank us for driving traffic to their platform by making us pay to reach the fans we had sent to Facebook.
While the interwebs are all abuzz about #DeleteFacebook in light of the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, this seems also a good time to run down why Facebook is bad for creators.
1) Your favorite pages have to pay to reach you
Facebook is always tweaking the secret sauce of their algorithm to show you the most relevant posts. Consumers don’t want to be served with marketing content all the time, so over the years the changes have invariably hurt brand and artist pages by showing their posts to fewer and fewer people. I’ve watched organic post reach decline from 50% to 20% to 5%. This means that 5% of the fans we drove to like our page on Facebook even see our content in their feeds — unless we pay to show it to them. It can cost hundreds of dollars per month for even an emerging artist to reach their entire fanbase on Facebook. And in many cases, we’ve also paid to advertise the page itself to potential fans, so in the end, we’re paying twice.
2) Facebook doesn’t pay creators for showing ads alongside their content
The most engaging Facebook content is video, so artists can beat the algorithm by uploading all of their video content directly to Facebook. This is great for increasing post reach, but terrible when you consider the fact that Facebook does not pay creators to display ads alongside their original content. All those YouTube pre-roll and pop-up ads may be annoying, but they mean that a creator is at least getting paid (if only fractions of a penny) every time you watch a video. Not so with Facebook, whose entire business model is based on displaying ads alongside the amusing content that users visit the platform to see. And if we choose to link out to YouTube or our own site instead of uploading our content directly to Facebook, no one will see that Facebook post unless we pay for it.
Comedian Matt Klinman explained to Splitsider how this business model caused Funny or Die to lay off its entire editorial team.
“Facebook is essentially running a payola scam where you have to pay them if you want your own fans to see your content. If you run a large publishing company and you make a big piece of content that you feel proud of, you put it up on Facebook. From there, their algorithm takes over, with no transparency. So, not only is the website not getting ad revenue they used to get, they have to pay Facebook to push it out to their own subscribers. So, Facebook gets the ad revenue from the eyeballs on the thing they are seeing, and they get revenue from the publisher.”
3) Facebook’s algorithm rewards bad behavior
Facebook’s “fake news” problem is due in large part to what the algorithm rewards. Clickbait gets our hearts racing and makes us think, talk, and act irrationally. Like much of the internet, Facebook uses outrage as fuel to drive traffic. And because comments are weighted heavily in the algorithm, the posts that get the most reach should also come with a DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS warning. You’ll find some of the most vitriolic fights in the comments of an artist’s Facebook post, complete with input from lurking trolls.
Reading these comments can be detrimental to a creator’s psyche. An artist can log on to Facebook to be in community with their fans only to read attacks on their work or their character (or other fans). Not to mention that these kind of comment fights drive away sincere fans who become shy about interacting with the page lest they be attacked.
So, if Facebook is hurting the artists you love, what can you do? Let this be more incentive for you to #DeleteFacebook and find other ways to support artists.
Here are a few things you can do to be in better communication with your favorite creators.
1) Join the email list
This is so important. The email list is the one way of communicating that will not disappear when the newest app comes into vogue. Until we are all texting each other with our thoughts, joining the email list is the best way to stay in touch with your favorite artists. Sign up and keep your location info up to date.
2) Support artists on Patreon
If a creator is on Patreon, giving them even $1 per month or per thing will make you feel like a fancy, old-school patron of the arts. You can control how often you receive emails from Patreon and the artist will still be heartened by your support.
3) Create a feed of your favorite blogs and writers in one place
Use an app like Feedly to subscribe to multiple blogs and news sites. You can enter the URL of an artist’s news page in order to see new news items in here too.
4) Use Twitter lists
Twitter has its own issues with a non-chronological timeline, but you can get around this by creating lists on Twitter of your favorite artists and thinkers. You can organize them by category (such as Humor, Music, Politics, etc) and pop over to that list whenever you want to consume that kind of work. (Twitter has its own problem with trolls, but that’s a topic for another day.)
5) Follow musicians on Bandsintown
Bandsintown is a pretty powerful tool for hearing about local shows and getting messages from your favorite artists … but it’s connected to Facebook.
CDBaby founder Derek Sivers recently deleted his Facebook, explaining, “Maybe if I quit going entirely, it will help my friends quit, too.” Maybe you can help build the trend of leaving Facebook for more productive pastures.
I’d quit Facebook but … I work in social media. Please help my life be rid of this cursed app by making it go the way of Myspace.
This piece is cross-posted on Medium.com