Earlier this week I read this excellent post over on Medium.com about how Facebook is broken. The writer made some insightful comments about how advertisers have hooked on to the Like and Share features to push ‘low quality, emotionally appealing content’ that will get shared and liked right throughout the platform. The number of brands all crowded into Facebook and buying Sponsored Posts make our Newsfeeds noisy with advertising.
As a consumer, it’s not what I want. The Facebook algorithm hides my friends posts unless they consider it important or shareable enough to display to me, and instead surface paid advertising from brands. I see stuff I don’t want to see, and I miss the stuff I do want to see. And how much do I pay to access this platform? A big fat nothing, so I just need to suck it up.
But what if I had the option of paying to remove these unwanted distractions? Angry Birds does it – pay up and remove the ads. Perhaps a better example is Spotify, which also has premium subscription levels which remove advertising and offer more functionality for a monthly fee (25% of Spotify listeners have taken up this option). What if I had an option on Facebook to see ALL my friends posts – yes switch off the Facebook algorithm – remove all the Sponsored Posts in my Newsfeed, show me only the posts from the brands I have opted in to see, remove all the advertisements that claim they can lose tummy fat in just 3 days, and the Candy Crush app install ads on my phone. And what if I also had access to more features and functionality on top of that? For someone who uses Facebook daily, this is pretty attractive. That, or decamp to Google Plus to hang out with the Googlers and tumbleweed.
For a brand who advertises, a model where you can talk to all of the community who opted in (not just the 16% you can reach organically at present) then this is still an attractive model. I see a lot of comments from people on Sponsored Posts complaining of spam or unwanted advertising. These are probably not really the people you want to be targeting anyway – its quality, not quantity! If consumers have the option to pay to remove advertising – but don’t take it up – then they really can’t complain. Or shouldn’t.
Facebook shouldn’t be frightened of going Freemium. They might be pleasantly surprised at how many of their billion users would take up the option.
The problem is that under the current model there is no choice.