According to recently published figures, in the first quarter of 2018 Facebook attracted 2.2 billion active users per month.  That's quite an impressive number, and almost the combined total of the two most populous places on Earth - China and India.

But just how effective is Facebook in 2018?

It may have been around since 2004, and by 2013 it hit the one billion active users figure, but a great deal has changed since then -- we use it differently; there are many other social media platforms; and most crucially, Facebook has changed its business model.

Facebook for the People

Sign up, find your friends, start sharing, liking and commenting.  Simple enough.  That's been the driving force since conception.  As time has marched on, the boffins at Facebook decided to mess with your Timeline.  Nowadays, it's not a chronological list of posts in your feed.  It's a list of posts that Facebook think you might like to see, in (what appears to be) no particular order.

Scrolling down your list you might see the latest snaps from Aunt Dora's gin soaked holiday in the Costa Plonka; a video of a cute kitten getting stuck in a box -- shared with 12 million Facebook disciples; next an advert for a pair of shoes, in dollars; someone selling a lawnmower; a button taunting you to like a page that one of your friends liked months ago; and so on....

The lawnmower is in one of the groups you follow; it was actually put up for sale several days ago and has already been sold.

The advert for shoes is bad/lazy targetted marketing

You've missed the post that your dearest friend put on earlier this morning asking if anyone wants a day out  shopping.

The problem here is the algorithm, in it's wisdom deciding what you want to see.

It's true. It is amazing what you will have missed, or be shown days later.  If you are a member of any of Facebook groups, go into the group rather than let it feed your Timeline.  You will be surprised at what you have not seen.

Click on one of your friends --one who you haven't chatted with (on FB) in a few weeks.  Again, what did you miss?  Facebook assumes that because we do not like/comment/message with a friend, you are not interested in everything they post.

Equally annoying: Click on a post in your timeline, now go back -- your timeline will most likely have entirely different posts, and the one you have just read has disappeared!  Refresh the page.  Same thing!  All change.

Facebook for Business

Now consider how all this impacts on Businesses.  FB used to be an amazing tool for business, but no longer.  Yeah, 'big deal' I hear you cry; you don't want a timeline full of adverts?   So why did you 'like' the Kitchenware shop in the first place?  Beacuse, you are interested and want to see what they offer.  Again, the algorithm thinks not.

Businesses now pay for 'promoted posts'.  That's fine as they should pay a little something, however we end up being spammed with stuff we are not interested in.

When I use the term business, I refer to 'Pages' on Facebook.  People have a profile; any commercial entity must have a 'Page'.  This is not the exclusive domain of the Business; voluntary organisations, charities, local groups all have to be Pages.

These pages have to work hard for your attention -- hence all these 'like and comment' competitions.  The more interaction with a page, the more the algorithm might show their content on your page.

But not always!

Take a recent study I undertook... a local community page.  It posts regularly; maybe five times a week.  Content is relevant to the page and, hopefully, to those who follow.  

The Page has just over 500 followers.  Sometimes a post will get 29 views.  This means it was shown on only 29 Timelines of the 500 followers!  Why?  The Algorithm.    Another post received just over 10,000 views -- yes, for only 500 likes.  All because a few people commented; Facebook takes this as it signal to pollute other people's Timelines.  You've seen it on your own feed.... "John Smith commented on Kitchen Gadget's Post".  I doubt John Smith needed FB to tell you this, but that's the way it rolls.

The result

It seems Facebook is here for a while yet -- despite the teens allegedly leaving in droves.  However, the way you use FB and how it populates your Timeline has changed.  You'll never know what you are missing, or why it thinks you need a new roll-up mattress, delivered to your door.

As for me:  I was a very active FB user.  In mid January 2017 I went cold turkey and gave up posting.  Don't miss it at all. It made me interact more directly with people who are important to me.  Annoyingly I still have my profile as I mange several Pages; FB do not allow you to manage a Page unless you have a profile.  

Next time:  Just how much is Facebook tracking me around the Internet.


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