I’ve written a lot over the years about my challenges with Facebook. For personal communications, I opted out completely three years ago. Using Facebook for business, I’ve wrestled with people trying to use it as an RSS feed, and the challenges of people commenting on Facebook instead of the blogs.
As the years have worn on, the reality is this: Facebook drives a massive portion of the Offbeat Empire’s traffic. Facebook is responsible for Offbeat Families becoming MORE popular since I shut it down. Facebook brings in almost as many new readers as Google does. Basically, I’m stuck with Facebook… and as I’ve adapted to that reality, I’ve started realizing that there are some ways in which its alogirithms are awesome. Shoes, for instance.
A few months ago, I asked readers how they felt about how many Facebook posts they saw from Offbeat Bride. Over 80% felt like they saw just the right amount of posts from us, and you know what that’s indicative of? Not that we’re posting just the right amount, but that Facebook is SHOWING you just the right amount. At this point, Offbeat Bride’s Facebook page posts as many as 8 times a day (including these ridiculous SHOES AT 2 shoe posts I’ve started doing), but you only see all those posts if Facebook understands that you WANT to see all those posts. If you consistently ignore them? You see maybe only 1 post a day, or none. In other words: Facebook’s algorithms are smarter than we could ever be.
…And they’re getting smarter. From an article in Slate:
When users click on a link in their news feed, Cathcart says, Facebook looks very carefully at what happens next. “If you’re someone who, every time you see an article from the New York Times, you not only click on it, but go offsite and stay offsite for a while before you come back, we can probably infer that you in particular find articles from the New York Times more relevant”—even if you don’t actually hit “like” on them.
At the same time, Facebook has begun more carefully differentiating between the likes that a post gets before users click on it and the ones it gets after they’ve clicked. A lot of people might be quick to hit the like button on a post based solely on a headline or teaser that panders to their political sensibilities. But if very few of them go on to like or share the article after they’ve read it, that might indicate to Facebook that the story didn’t deliver.
As much as we’d like to think we could do a better job than the algorithms, the fact is most of us don’t have time to sift through 1,500 posts on a daily basis. And so, even as we resent Facebook’s paternalism, we keep coming back to it.
And just maybe, if Facebook keeps getting better at figuring out what we actually like as opposed to what we just Facebook-like, we’ll start to actually like Facebook itself a little more than we do today.
As much as Facebook has frustrated the fuck out of me over the years, I cannot deny that its algorithms are very, very clever.
If you click on the “SHOES AT 2” posts that I’ve started doing on Facebook every day, and you spend some time off Facebook browsing those shoes? Facebook is going to show you more of those posts.
If you’re like “WTF, a shoe post every freaking day? WHY GOD WHY,” (an opinion I totally respect!) then Facebook isn’t going to show you those posts at all. For me as a publisher, I get to spend less time fretting “Will readers like these posts?” and more time saying “Those that like them, will see them. Those that don’t, probably won’t.” It’s oddly freeing.
I don’t have to try to read y’all’s minds as much… Facebook does it for me.