Let’s Be Real About Facebook: It’s not about Quality Content

*Note: My organization does not “buy likes” on Facebook. We do not buy ads on Facebook. We have never been paid to publish any content.

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People seem to be under the false impression that quality posts will be seen on Facebook. You’ve only to look to Business Insider to see individuals who support this mentality. Koby Conrad recently contacted Business Insider about his website and how he successfully uses Facebook to promote it. According to the article, Conrad asserts that, “all the people whining about Facebook killing their brand pages are just managing them in the wrong ways.” Conrad continues by outlining the “right way” to manage one’s business.

Conrad claims that, although he buys “likes” in order to see his Facebook traffic increase, you do not need to buy ads in order to see your Facebook traffic increase. Wait. What? What does that even mean, “he buys ‘likes’” ? And if you don’t need to buy “likes” to see your Facebook traffic increase, why are you? I mean, are you just trying to help the struggling company or…okay, you know what. Let’s just move on.

The aforementioned contradiction aside, Conrad continues by asserting that, “A lot of people have been posting sub-par content for a long time. Going forwards into 2014, I think social media is going to see a very strong push for better content. It will no longer be just the ‘share if you hate cancer’ posts or the pages that are 24/7 infomercials, we will be able to start to see more real, relevant content in our news feeds.”

Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Individuals who invest time and energy into their posts being rewarded for their hard effort and engaging content? That, my friends, is a world that I’d love to live in. However, this is not the world that I know, and that is certainly not the Facebook that I know. Not even a little bit. So. I decided to head over to Conrad’s page to see what this “better content” looks like. Here is an example of the kind of content that Conrad posts on his page. And Wow.

Look at that awesome dreamcatcher art. I have to admit, that is a beautiful image. That is absolutely quality content. Since Conrad spends so much time making amazing art to post on his Facebook page, it is no wonder that he is so successful. But wait. Did Conrad actually make that painting?

I decided to take a look. And unsurprisingly, Conrad is not the artist responsible for that painting. In fact, it was created by Carol Cavalaris. Carol Cavalaris is an artist who sells her images on the internet. You can buy her “awesome dreamcatcher art” here. It’s kind of strange that Conrad used her picture without any credit, but he left the watermark on the image–that’s something, I guess. So let’s take a look at another post.

Here is another post I found on Conrad’s page. Could it be that, in addition to running a successful Facebook page and clothing store, Conrad is an amazing astrophotographer? Sadly, no. This image comes from DARIUSZLAKOMY Photography.

How do I know? I did a google image search and found a copy of this image that HAS a watermark (please note that the image Conrad used does not). Mr. Lakomy has a copyright clearly listed at the bottom of his page, and he also sells his services. Maybe I am crazy, but taking another artist’s image and using it to promote your hippy clothing store without giving any credit seems like questionable business practices.

Now, I am not asserting that Conrad purposefully removed the watermark, only that he used an image that had the watermark removed. Yet, I was able to easily find the copyright owner, so I can only assume that Conrad could have as well. But maybe Conrad received permission to use these images. And maybe the artists said, “hey, go on ahead and use my image without credit. I make my living off of smiles and candy canes.” You never know. Stranger things have probably happened.

Except no. This image, which was also featured on Conrad’s page, also comes from an individual that we frequently work with, Hashem AL-ghaili. He runs Sci-Tech. You can see all of his fantastic work (and it is fantastic) here. Please note that there is absolutely no credit given.

But even if Conrad was sourcing his images, it means that “better content” is really just pretty images made by other individuals. That “high quality” content that Facebook is raving about, the stuff that is supposed to be filling up our newsfeeds, is  not an individual’s own unique content or original ideas. It is the hard work of other individuals who are decidedly not the ones publishing and being rewarded for the material.

Why am I talking about this? I co-own a science based organization that works to promote scientific literacy, From Quarks to Quasars. We have over a million followers on Facebook and thousands of others across various social media sites. After all of the changes, our posts continued to do fantastic. Despite all of the pages who suffered as a result of the new algorithms, ours continued to be successful. We thought that it was because we created original content that was engaging. Here is a sample of what our posts look like:

Via FQTQ

Via FQTQ

It usually consists of an image along with a short paragraph or two introducing the article. Then there is a link to the article, which leads to our website, and image credit. We try to use CC and public domain images. When we use images of astrophotography, we credit the author and try to work exclusively with individuals who gave us permission to use their work (like Mike Tyalor). Now, I am not saying that we are perfect. I am sure we have made mistakes. If you are determined enough, I know that you can find instances where we failed to live up to our standards. But we produce original content and we do our best to give credit where credit is due.

Looking at out shares, you can see that this method worked. We were increasing our fanbase by about 10,000 people a day on facebook. Then, for some inexplicable reason, everything changed. Literally overnight. Our shares were through the roof, we received hundreds (if not thousands) of comments on our posts, and then they just stopped. Our content did not change. Our posting schedule did not change. We went from getting nearly 13,000 likes on December 29th to getting 800 likes on December 31st.

FQTQ drop off

FQTQ drop off

Our posts are still performing the same across other social media sites. The only change has been on facebook. Now, this isn’t the end of the world. We will keep on keeping on in much the same way that we always have, and things will probably get back to normal on Facebook eventually. But how can one rationally explain a drop off like this? Are we to assume that our quality really just dived that much overnight? Did we go from posting unique and interesting topics to babbling incessantly about our favorite color? Koby Conrad would have to believe so. He would assert that we are just producing “sub-par content.”

FQTQ data over the past month, clearly showing the drop off

FQTQ data over the past month, clearly showing the drop off

Assuming that Conrad is right, what does this mean? That “quality content” is posting images that you did not create and which (it appears) you stole? That you don’t actually need to post unique content for it to be “quality content.” That Facebook is really just another meme generator that encourages individuals to take good content from other places  and other people on the internet and bring it to Facebook to get “likes” and shares? Is is possible that our reach dropped, not because our content changed, but because we recently passed one million followers on Facebook and they are trying to encourage us (force us) to buy ads? I am not entirely sure. I don’t have all the answers. But what I do know is this: Quality content is not copyright infringement.

*Edit: Koby Conrad posted on this article questioning whether I contacted artists “trying to get them mad at [him].” I did alert one individual that I mentioned in this post. I know him through FQTQ and work with him on a regular basis, and I generally try to notify people when their work is being taken and their copyright violated. I have posted the comment in question below to prove that my intent was not to create animosity, but to alert an individual that their work was being taken and utilized in a for profit business setting without their consent.

Comment posted in Science Admins Collaboration

Comment posted in Science Admins Collaboration

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10 thoughts on “Let’s Be Real About Facebook: It’s not about Quality Content

  1. Awesomely well written, thank you. I saw the article about that page and could tell in 30 seconds their posters were not theirs. How that’s being lauded as smart business is beyond me…but you’ve said it much better than I could.

  2. Hey,

    Thanks for your concern. I take all of my images from other social medias that are already being massively distributed. Sometimes I accidentally take a picture that has a copyright and then what usually happens is the owner contacts me, I take it down, and then I give them a massive amount of publicity. I believe you contacted the owners for some of these pictures trying to get them mad at me? The whole world isn’t evil you know.

    This falls under fair use… =)

    I really am sorry about your page, not sure what is wrong with your content, but 800 likes a day organically sounds pretty normal for a page your size, 10,000+ just seems legit insane! My friends with 2M+ likes weren’t getting that much.

    I’m just a guy running a hippie shop trying to feed people, sorry if that makes you upset.

    “Now, I am not saying that we are perfect. I am sure we have made mistakes. ”

    Me neither. But thanks for this article,

    Koby C.

    • Just because other people are stealing content does not make it okay for you to do so. What you are doing does not constitute fair use. Fair use only includes “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research.” You are using the work to promote your page, which (as you assert) is a business. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/107

      It is nice that you give people credit when requested, but they should not have to request that you give them credit. That is basic information any business owner should know.

      I didn’t contact anyone to try and get people upset; however, if I notice someone committing copyright infringement, I attempt to contact the owner of the work. That, I believe, is being ethically responsible. I posted the message in question above so that you could see for yourself what I stated. https://creightoncreation.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/sci.png

      My point, if you reread my post, is that there is nothing wrong with the page (FQTQ). Rather, Facebook altered their algorithms, and they did so in a way that is decidedly *not* about quality content but simply who is willing to pay.

      Individuals attempting to make money do not upset me; however, I find blatant copyright infringement morally reprehensible. These artists are just “trying to feed people” as well. They use their work to earn a living. When you take that work without proper credit, you are effectively denying them that.

      In short, everything that you said to Business Insider is incorrect, as are most of your above statements.

      • I have literally no ability to tell who created the works, and I do my best to not take copyrighted work. If the work is copyrighted it usually has a watermark anyways (or at least anyone who cares about their work does).

        Also, i’m not denying anyone anything. In fact i’ve “launched” more than one business by accidentally sharing one of their copyrighted pictures that then went viral. I can’t tell you how many people have sent me messaged thanking me for posting their content.

        The page is a community. Criticism, comments, and news reporting. I don’t “just” advertise my website, in fact I only post once a day about my website. The Hippy Bloggers is a community page and there are LOTS of things involved in that. Yeah, 1/8 posts might be something that makes me money (because I do this full time), but that doesn’t mean the page exists to make me money. I’m fully within my legal and moral rights.

        I’m really sorry if you don’t like how the internet works, but i’m not a bad person. I share content and try and help people, that’s all I do.

    • You do have a way to search for the original artist. You just didn’t know how and didn’t bother to take the time to figure it out. http://www.google.com/insidesearch/features/images/searchbyimage.html

      Blaming artists for not watermarking their images is untenable. You’ve no right to assert that they must not care about their work if they don’t watermark it.

      And I don’t care how many businesses you launched. That does not make it okay for you to steal other people’s work. Moreover, your article to Business Insider was not about how you launched other people’s businesses, but how you posted quality content. Now, you admit that you just share stuff other people make. Good, so we agree, it is not about any content that you create that is quality because, in fact, you don’t actually produce any original work.

      A lot of people run pages and businesses and manage to source images properly (look at FQTQ). You don’t. That is not an internet thing, that is a copyright infringement thing.

      You are not within your legal rights. What you are doing is illegal. Literally. It is. This point is not debatable.

      What’s more, we are going back and forth about copyright laws and your (apparent) complete inability to source images properly and not steal copyrighted work. However, copyright laws are already set in stone, and I’ve no desire to hear your excuses. I am sure you have many.

      The point of this post was to discuss the kind of content that Facebook promoted. You said they promoted quality content. Fine. That means that “quality content” is really stolen work, unoriginal content, memes, posts that people pay them to advertise etc. In short, as I said before, everything you said to Business Insider is wrong and most of your other assertions are as well.

      Unless you actually engage with the primary point of this post re. what type of content Facebook promotes, I am probably not going to continue the conversation. I don’t think it is terrible productive to continue talking about how or why you stole other people’s work.

      • Believe whatever you want, i’ve paid over $10,000 to IP lawyers to make sure I am operating legally + i’ve had Facebook executives review my page.

        That’s an awesome tool though, thanks a ton for sharing it. I had no clue that existed.

        I’m not trying to do anything wrong, I am trying to follow the rules to the best of my ability. I’m sorry you have this huge amount hate for me, i’m just a person, believe it or not.

    • Haha. I don’t hate you. I don’t have any opinion on you one way or the other. This is a response to an article that you were quoted in in Business Insider, and it is a critique of your assertions and the way that you operate your business. It is, however, not an attack on you, as an individual.

      I could have picked 1,000 other Facebook pages to critique, as they do the exact same thing, I simply chose yours because yours is the one Business Insider mentioned.

      The point was to seriously interrogate the content that FB promotes and how the site operates, not to make you feel bad about yourself…though it may not hurt to reflect on your business practices as (regardless of your assertions) it is still copyright infringement. But ah well, agree to disagree, I guess. We’re not going to see eye to eye on this.

  3. Sounds like the author has more of a personal vendetta than anything and is just hating on a successful 20 year old with a business that feeds the poor. What have you done for yourself besides write lousy articles? That’s what I thought 😉 Hater’s gonna hate!

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