Dot.com billionaire Mark Cuban hit a raw nerve among Facebook aficionados a few days ago when he complained on his blog that Facebook wanted to charge him to reach the fans of the basketball team he owns, the Dallas Mavericks.
Since then, the blog has been attracting a steady stream of users weighing in on Cuban’s gripe that Facebook wanted to charge him $3,000 to reach Mavericks fans on Facebook. He had thought the Facebook feature would be free of charge.
Cuban focused on the issue of sponsored posts on Facebook–whether they should be paid for and whether Facebook was unfair in leveling new charges for different classes of posting. Cuban is so steamed over the issue that he’s threatening to take his social network business to Tumblr or to the new MySpace.
“First, I’m not recommending to any of my companies that we leave Facebook,” he wrote. “I am recommending that we de-emphasize pushing consumers or partners to Like us on Facebook and focus on building up our followings across all existing social media platforms and to evaluate those that we feel can grow a material following. In the past we put Facebook first–Twitter second. Facebook has been moved to the bottom of a longer list.”
Cuban thinks Facebook is a “time-waster,” although that can be good, he believes, because “it’s a great alternative to boredom when you are stuck somewhere…”
That drew a quick response from Amy Mcc Tobin, a marketing specialist at Ariel Marketing Group (arielmarketinggroup.com), who blogged that she believes Facebook users are heavily involved on the social network. “People spend time on the network to connect with family and friends, for entertainment, for product reviews, political discussion, and for a zillion other reasons,” she stated. We ENGAGE on FB.”
Cuban says he’s not opposed to sponsored posts per se; he’s against them as the primary way of reaching “most of the people my companies have built a connection with on Facebook.”
The issue centers on the way Facebook filters users’ posts–posts that the social network maintains it is sending to users because they have shown an interest in similar content previously. Cuban believes that Facebook is making it more difficult for marketers who must now pay for “promoted posts” to reach all their fans.
Another CMO, Tia Marie Kemp, social media marketing manager for Leica Sport Optics, noted there can be value in promoting posts because the posts potential reach can connect to a larger percentage of a user’s audience. “The bottom line is that Facebook is charging less than most media to reach a really large audience,” she blogged. “Paying [for] a Promoted Post simply increases the weight of the post in the News Feed, making it more likely to be seen than the average post.”
Cuban seemed to have hit a raw nerve among scores of Facebook users based on the hundreds of responses he received to his blog posting. Responses were generally mixed, with some agreeing with the basketball team owner with others saying spending $3,000 to reach a million interested persons was a great marketing deal. Still others thought Cuban was simply having a tantrum.
One respondent wrote in as follows: “$3,000 might seem expensive for us but if you have a million fans and make hundreds of millions then the fee is a drop in the bucket that will generate far more revenue than spamming people for tickets and events.”
Others sympathized with Cuban, joining him in complaining that some Facebook services that previously were free of charge are now going to be paid services. “If you want to get any message out on FB to 100 percent of the people who follow you, now (you) have to pay for it,” replied one respondent to Cuban’s blog post. “If you do not promote a post, it will reach approximately 15-20 percent” of those who were previously friended.
What does Facebook think of the brouhaha?
Facebook, which released a series of policy changes unconnected to the Cuban blog post in recent days, noted that it has recently revamped its algorithms to cut spam and that the volume of page posts has remained essentially the same in recent months. A proposal to combine its Instagram photo service with user data holds the promise of making Facebook more attractive to marketers. However, the policy immediately drew fire from European regulators, who complained the new policy could violate European laws.
Cuban ended his blog posting by stating: “Facebook is a fascinating destination that is an amazing alternative to boredom which excels in its simplicity. One of the threats in any business is that you outsmart yourself. Facebook has to be careful of just that.”