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It’s like an almost silent undercurrent here at #SxSW: people and brands are not very happy with Facebook.  The fact that the social platform is now de facto forcing brands to pay to reach the fan base they built up over the last couple of years clearly ripped open some sore wounds.

Bonin Bough (from the Oreo cookies) understands Facebook is concentrating on making money, and still works together with the social giant. He regrets however that the Facebook rules now effectively narrow down the organic reach.  All brands see the organic reach to their own fan base drizzling down to a miserable 1 to 2 percent. Many people in the industry cry wolf, especially since they paid big bucks in time, energy and hard cash to grow their fan base, and were hoping to use that fan base into a thriving social community.

Even video blogger and technology evangelist Robert Scoble now has to pay to reach his own friend base on Facebook, and we’re all confronted lately with the option to ‘promote’ our own pictures and updates with friends and family: to reach everyone in your friend list will set you back between 5 and 10 euro.

It puts Facebook in a weird perceived spot: from the backbone of social media, the spot for spontaneous conversations and social sharing, it’s growing into a pure broadcast channel with a strict pay to reach monetary model. The undercurrent here at SxSW thinks that is going to have serious repercussions on perception, sustained use and further growth of Facebook. Already multiple studies are quoted in the SxSW sessions that the growth is slowing down, and that the use by especially the younger generation is taking a beating.

Mark Cuban is an American businessman, shark tank celebrity and angel investor. He referred in his keynote to Facebook as “the refrigerator door app for young kids while ephemeral apps like Snapchat are their day-to-day communications tools. We all post pictures on our refrigerator doors so that we can see them every day and visitors to our home can see them as well. That is exactly what Facebook has become. Facebook is no longer where we show all sides of our personality. Facebook has become the refrigerator where we post pictures and motivational quotes.”

Lots of fingers point to social networks like Pinterest, Google+, Snapchat, Twitter, -and even good old blogging- where the good old rules of the good old days apply: Anything goes. Reach to your circles is free.

As a Scandinavian blogger put it very eloquently over a coffee: a social network is made or broken by the public. The Social graveyard is full of too-big-to-fail companies that forgot the very root of their business: the public. If they turn away, it’s over.


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