Facebook is in discussions with well-known news sites to host their content within the "walls" of Facebook itself. This made me think about social media in concept, and what the differences are between sharing content and generating it.
The innovations behind the most prominent social media networks have time and again shaped and reshaped the very fabric of how we communicate, interact and learn. Specifically, Facebook’s innovations have driven a lot of changes in the way people use mobile devices to find and share information. Here we have Facebook planning a way forward that could change their environment from being a place that people share and exchange, into a source or publisher of news, where people find exclusive content.
What does this mean for social media? It means the world’s largest social media platform with 1.4 billion users could be eliminating the middleman in some instances, and that means you. Now I don’t mean to insinuate that Facebook is restricting people’s ability to share these stories with other users, but what I am saying is that it will no longer be the user’s job to introduce these stories into the Facebook environment. Facebook generating these stories, in its own environment, does seem to eliminate one aspect of the social nature of social media. There is already a ton of content that is generated by different brands off-site for the explicit purpose of maximizing the amount of sharing over Facebook and social media.
From Facebook’s perspective, it’s a total win of course. The less people go off-site from Facebook the happier Facebook is. By some degree, this eliminates some user’s need to go searching elsewhere for content. That is not to say that this will replace the need to use a search engine or truly research a problem by finding other sources of information. I do doubt that this would cause true social influencers to ignore other valuable sources of information. But to some degree, for a casual user, this will diminish the need to go searching for interesting news on sites like The New York Times, because the New York Times’ stories will already be contained inside the walls of Facebook. In these instances, the first person to read a particular story and all of the referrals thereafter will have never left Facebook. This is much in the same way that an RSS reader or apps like Flip Board has eliminated the need for some to visit many different news sites.
By containing those stories inside the walls of Facebook, instead of the content creator’s own platform, it also limits that content creators ability to present its other content in its preferred methods. It’s a bit like handing a Facebook user a set of blinders and telling them to look only at the Facebook Newsfeed. From the news site’s point of view, it is about maximizing the amount of eyes on the story and the brand behind it. The New York Times reported that Facebook has discussed sharing ad revenue with content creators, and I don’t think this deal makes much sense without that stipulation.
News sites may be counting on Facebook pushing those stories out to more viewers than might have otherwise seen them, which may happen, but pushing traffic to the news organization’s own original site is something that I doubt is on Facebook’s agenda. When it comes to how this might diminish news site traffic exactly, I don’t purport to know the effects that the behavior of either true social influencers or casual social media users might have, but it will be interesting to see what those effects in fact are. It does seem to raise the question; does a partnership between a well-known news organization and Facebook put Facebook, by any measure, in charge of the content created by that news organization? As an interesting parallel, my company specializes in Search Engine Optimization or SEO and I can say for sure that considerations of how keywords rank in a Google search has absolutely changed the way people write. And if that is true, then certainly considerations of who might read what story over which platform could influence the way a story is written. And if this were to catch on, say if more and more news outlets started to provide content strictly over social media platforms, then are those platforms still truly social media platforms or something else entirely?
Ken Wisnefski is a social media expert and Founder/CEO of leading digital marketer WebiMax. He has been featured on MSNBC, Bloomberg TV, Fox News, and Fox Business to discuss marketing, technology, social media and e-commerce.