The Chair in Social Media Monetization organized a conference on December 13 between researchers and professionals in order to review the term “virality”. After the scientific point of view offered by Jean-Samuel Beuscart and Kevin Mellet, three professionals entered the conversation to share their perspective on the marketing consequences of the audience model in social media.
>> The social media, owners of visibility
The ecosystem of Facebook was originally used as a publication support, as a channel of virality for publishers and advertisers. The social platform, however, is trying to extend that role and regain control of the viral content. This evolution, presented by Rémi Douine, could also expand to all social platforms « that own algorithms and thus virality and visibility » and develop into content producers.
>> Pay to be seen
Such a redefinition of the values of Facebook impacts those levers of visibility formerly conducted by professionals. Until recently, the visibility on Facebook was proportional to the number of fans one page had managed to recruit. Today, organic visibility (obtained from the number of fans) is only one of the three levers to operate. It must be combined with viral visibility (made possible by the engagement of fans who share content) … and paying visibility acquired through the purchase of advertising. This model is not innovative: Google itself, several years ago, was based on such combination of direct traffic (the equivalent of the fan base), SEO (the natural virality of content) and finally, SEM, the paying fee.
>> Virality is not structural any more
For Rémi Douine, this tendency to “proprietize virality” transforms the social media into “a typical media audience model”: social platforms directly address the advertisers, taking over methods of measurement of traditional media. Facebook itself could be considered as media, indicating to communication professionals « the number of people who talk about it. » Therefore, viral marketing is no longer a hypothetical effect, hoping to be achieved. Visibility has become the heart of Facebook business: as media, it has the tools to measure visibility and to launch it… The virality in social media is no longer structural: « never again another Zynga could emerge that way. »
To support his statement, the founder of The Metrics Factory presents the results of this new policy: the « organic growth » of pages tends to decrease. Specifically, content producers and advertisers have more and more difficulty reaching their communities, and recruiting fans as Facebook reduces their visibility. Note: this tendency seems primarily to impact pages with a large community.
Finally, Rémi Douine predicted a fierce battle for proprietorship of actions of sharing and virality between Facebook, Google and Twitter. As proof, he referred to the « war of the buttons » that has already begun on sites whose pages are full of « like », « share », « tweet this » or « +1. »
Video interview of Rémi Douine (in french with english subtitles) here.