Thursday, September 11, 2014

Facebook and Net Neutrality -- There Isn't Any There

A number of years ago Facebook insisted that you had to have a Business Page if you were a business on their service. And that was going to be a great thing! Build your Fan base, promote your brand: Social networking is the way to go to sell your goods and services online and just about anything... including a bill of goods.

At first it did seem to be working and many tiny mom-and-pop-preneurs were reporting wonderful success starting a business from scratch without the need for very much upfront cash and outside investment. An excellent example of boot-strapping your way out of poverty in today's horrifying "post"-Recession economy.

But several months ago something more horrifying started to happen. Facebook stoppped showing most Business Page posts to the Fans unless the Page owner paid to have those posts promoted. Case in point, I have built a Fan base of 995 people so far. Unless I reshare it or pay to "Boost" a post, my typical update is shared with 10-12 people. Sometimes even fewer.

I've expressed my concern and "Well," people say,"That's not very nice but poor poverty-stricken Facebook 'deserves' to make money somehow, don't they?" Umm... yeah... but...

The business strategy promoted by Facebook and all those so-called internet business gurus was to use Business Pages to build relationships. And relationships build slowly over time, especially in the sound-bite little blips we post via social media. If you have to pay for every post that adds up FAST. And is SO far from cost effective it doesn't make sense for anyone to do at all.

I'm not just whining, I've been doing the math. Even when I pay for posts -- and I did that for several months to give it a real test -- I have very little interaction on my Business Page, very few increased clicks to my websites, and not a single sale. But when I reshare one of my Business posts to my personal Timeline -- and even better, if my partner Paul does that -- the interaction increases, the hits to our websites increase and sales go up. Not consistently, not stupendously well, but it works the way the gurus say it is supposed to work: through tiny increases in attention and interaction and information sharing over time. Which is not at all possible for a mom-and-pop-preneur if you have to pay to boost the real way we build relationships over the internet-- not with ads but through the over time accumulation of every personal status update, cat video, or fun social-oriented share.

So Facebook has now built its own fast and slow lane on its social network. When it comes to Net Neutrality on Facebook, there is none. The wealthy can pay to promote their goods and services -- you see it in your newsfeed and in the sidebar every day. The tiny mom and pops who would have just kept sharing news about their business ventures on their personal Timelines with their Friends are
being made invisible. All their hard work in building a Fan base (and Facebook's supposed business value) torn down practically overnight when they changed the way posts were shared.

By the way, don't believe Facebook when they say the lack of visibility is due to so many more people joining the social network. We small business owners saw our stats shift dramatically overnight and we have records to show when it occurred. But enough on that.

Facebook is a mega-corporation that was making billions of dollars already at the time this new approach was put into action. Their greed is driving this action, plain and simple. And if you want to know what the failure of securing Net Neutrality throughout the internet is sure to look like...  all you need to do is talk to a small business owner who was duped into making Facebook a base for their internet presence to know what's sure to be coming almost as soon as Comcast and other mega-corps we already know and hate wind up in charge.

The FCC is taking public commentary on this important issue. Go to http://www.fcc.gov/comments. Go to 14-28. Leave a comment. In particular say that you want "Internet service providers classified as common carriers." That means they won't be able to discriminate or charge different access fees to have fast and slow lanes of service. Sure, I know, some of you will want to say that they have a right to charge for better services. But then the equal playing field we've all had will disappear. And that equal access is what the internet is all about.



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