*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.
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:
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.
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.”
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.