While this issue is disturbing to Facebook’s private users, it can be downright damaging to its business users. Regardless of Facebook’s actual guilt in the matter, this unsettling allegation damages its reputation in two ways: First of all, Facebook likes are a valuable way for companies on the site to gauge public opinion of their brand, and their relative popularity in the social sphere. If said companies realize what is going on, it certainly seems pointless for them to keep battling for likes when the social-phantom is handing them out despite what the like-r actually likes. Secondly, if someone has the power to make users like these companies, is it worth trying to fight against them, and get likes the old-fashioned way? The companies being phantom liked–Walmart, McDonalds, and Discover are three examples—obviously have some capital to throw around, and how can a small mom’and’pop business compete with that? It’s a frustrating dilemma, especially for businesses that have invested a lot of time and money into their social media platform.
But if this phantom-likes allegation is too Conspiracy Theory for you, consider the widely-covered business pages problems users encountered within Facebook. In Spring of 2012, many page owners started noticing that their posts had become increasingly difficult for their users to notice–companies were simply were not getting the exposure they used to. Coincidentally, around this time Facebook really started pushing their “Sponsored Posts” feature to business pages, presenting a quick (though increasingly expensive) way to increase post exposure by almost 70%. In essence, Facebook told businesses they now needed to pay to reach the fans they had worked so hard to acquire, as their pages had stopped functioning normally–prompting business writers to call this, “the biggest bait-and-switch in history” and to feel as though Facebook had, “pulled the rug out from under them.”
So why is Facebook so ardently shooting itself in the foot? Granted, nothing they are doing is illegal, but it is certainly a little unethical–and considering their recent status as an IPO, it seems like a horrible idea to actively aggravate one’s bread-and-butter. It’s possible that these recent changes are just too lucrative in the short-term for Facebook to rescind them, but, as with many of their unpopular design decisions, I think that this is just the latest example of the company’s very out-of-touch mindset. Yes, getting $1M per day in revenue from sponsored posts is impressive, but how long will that last when users get fed-up and start to put their effort into other social media sites? The end of 2012 brought a huge surge of Pinterest popularity, and we all know that Google+ has been quietly waiting in the background for some time, so today’s user has no lack of social options. If Facebook doesn’t get back into its users’ favor, we may witness the latest fall of a social empire.