Popularity contests

Vaynerchuk talks about Facebook’s EdgeRank, which surfaces content based on how many people have shown interest through “likes, comments, shares and clicks.” I’m going to discuss this from two perspectives: as a consumer and as a marketer.

I used to have a Facebook account, and I convinced my parents and brother to join as well. And I have to admit that it’s still a great way to keep up with family, especially those who aren’t local. But I deactivated my account a couple years ago because, quite honestly, I felt a ridiculous amount of stress to “keep up.” I’ve always been an introvert, and I’ve never felt comfortable in front of a large audience. And that’s what Facebook felt like: an audience full of people I barely knew or hardly remembered, all trying to one-up each other with the cutest photos of their kids or pets, the best summer vacations, or the hippest new trends. Occasionally, I wonder if I should reactivate my account, mostly because there have been several nieces and nephews born in my family over the last year, and it would be nice to keep up with the photo albums. But I have no interest in the pressure to keep up with everything else about Facebook. I don’t care what so-and-so from high school is doing now; there’s a reason we didn’t stay in touch after we graduated. I like my introverted world, and I hate feeling like I’m spinning my wheels in a popularity contest that I’ll never win.

Since I closed my account before the Facebook IPO and before they really started focusing on advertising, my perspective as a marketer is mostly based on Vaynerchuk’s insights in Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. I found it fascinating to learn about EdgeRank and how its algorithm determines what content carries more weight based on interactions from users. This seems to validate the theory that social media has really flipped the switch on traditional media, in that users have the power. If users don’t interact with a campaign, Facebook’s EdgeRank rates it as dead in the water.

However, it all becomes more muddied when you consider that Facebook itself is a marketer. And not just an average marketer, but a marketer sitting on top of tons of really valuable user data about everything under the sun. Because they control the algorithm, can the playing field ever be level? In reality, Facebook has all the power, because they can decide how to apply the algorithm. Consumers interact with content by viewing, sharing, liking, purchasing, etc., but Facebook actually decides how valuable any of those interactions are. Consumers are at the mercy of Facebook, while marketers have to play by Facebook’s rules — which can change without any notice.

I think it’s safe to say that Facebook is tricky for both consumers and marketers. On both levels, I understand how it can be a valuable tool to connect with people and audiences. But speaking on a strictly personal level, I’m comfortable in my non-Facebook world, and I hope I don’t have to crawl out of it for a long time!