Facebook Updates for Artists Summer 2019


Facebook for Artists Summer 2019

social media, Facebook, updates, summer 2019, June, July, august, September,
Facebook Updates For Artists - Summer 2019


Every week I write a brand new article for members of our four wonderful art groups on Facebook, The Artists Exchange, The Artist Hangout, The Artists Directory, and The Artists Lounge. This week we take a regular stroll through the updates that Facebook has been working on and we take a look at how they might affect how you market your artwork on the platform.

This week is different, first I am preparing to take some time out and go exploring with my new camera and I am going to be spending some time relaxing. The weather here in the UK is getting a little bit warmer if not drier than it has been. I looked out of the window earlier and literally saw a guy and a kayak go past. So over the next couple of weeks, I might not be in a position to update this site weekly, it all very much depends on how many bars I get on the Wi-Fi signal!    

As a human race, we barely seem to function without that thing called the internet. The most important data on the smartphone is no longer who has called but how much battery do I have before the device needs a recharge and how many Wi-Fi bars are we going to get if we stand over here. That’s closely followed by how many notifications do I have and how many sales have I made. I never admit that using my phone is an addiction to being connected, but I do think that it probably is and that many others are just as addicted as I am when it comes to being connected too.

So with that in mind, my hope for this time out is that I get to relax just a little in between working on more art. I will be attempting to disconnect but how successful I will be at doing that will be dependent on how many of those Wi-Fi bars I get while I am exploring some beautiful places. All in the name of art but somebody has to do it, right?!

So on with this week’s article. Facebook has been busy, really busy. There have been so many changes to the platform since I wrote the last update that I found it difficult to keep up with the pace of change. With so many changes happening in a short space of time it also presents an opportunity for those who like to cause mass hysteria to post their viral memes that suggest things like Facebook now only allow 26 friends in your newsfeed. Before we get onto the updates we probably need to put to rest some of the latest crazy memes and posts that have been doing the rounds on Facebook.

too many tabs open, facebook updates, summer 2019
Too Many Tabs Open...

Busting the myths…

I have mentioned so many times before that sharing misinformation is mostly a really bad idea. When you are trying to sell art there are no secrets to success, but one of the biggest factors in people determining where to spend their money is about how credible they feel the seller is. If your artist page is punctuated by random mistruths then that credibility starts to vanish out of the window. No matter how it sometimes feels, if you post anything on social media it will get seen by someone at some point, it's also a myth that it won't!

One of the biggest myths of recent times is that your news feed is limited to only showing posts from 26 friends. The posts ask you to copy and paste the text into your own posts or to forward the text in emails and leave a comment. Some of us old hands at social media have seen it all before. The latest craze picked up again at the back end of 2017 and carried through 2018 and even today I still see the occasional post saying the same thing. The problem with it is that it is one of the biggest internet myths to ever grace our screens. As a viral campaign, it is genius, if only it were true!

Even Facebook presented some myth-busting facts about the 26 friend meme in a recent article on their corporate news site which you can find right here.  The intention of the meme in question was to make you believe that you were bypassing the systems new algorithms. 

Firstly, new algorithms are rolled out way more frequently than just occasionally, maybe even multiple times each week. Each time they roll out they are a little bit smarter than the last one, and admittedly some seem to break more stuff than they fix. The point is though that there simply is no way to game a system that has been designed to pick up on people gaming the system, the only way to game it is by sticking rigidly to the rules, especially when others don’t.

The 26 friend meme has been debunked repeatedly by multiple sources, I have previously written about it but it is also understandable because there will always be posts showing up on your newsfeed from the same people. It is a plausible announcement that we feel we can buy into so we do. That's how massively viral posts and campaigns work and we should learn from that.

The algorithm for Facebook’s news feed takes into account what you have previously liked, loved, wowed, and shared, and makes a decision on what to show you based on those reactions and responses. The 26 friend’s meme seems plausible because at the top of your feed you will see what the algorithm thinks you want to see, it shows what it thinks is most relevant to you. Scroll right the way down your feed and there will be posts from a wider group of people.

There is also a grain of truth in the meme that suggests that leaving a comment will ensure that you continue to see the posts that the poster shares. If you frequently trade comments with people then their posts are much more likely to be shown in the top part of your news feed because the algorithm believes these people and their posts are more meaningful to you.

I know that a lot of people suggest that the algorithm is making it more difficult to gain exposure but the algorithm is only really looking out for quality and engagement triggers. Everyone gets a quality score on Facebook so if you do post low-quality content the algorithm will rank your content lower and it then doesn’t get surfaced as much as content that is of a higher quality. 

There is no doubt at all that organic reach has declined but as I have written before, now more than ever artists need the support of each other to spread the love a little more and it is especially important to add comments on to the artist’s business pages as these will get surfaced less frequently. When a post gets shared and commented on it will be surfaced in front of a new set of people, this is the algorithm working as it has been programmed to work. If you can’t afford to purchase another artists work, leave them a comment on their business page, that’s like giving them a virtual chunk of gold.

Posting content that already has a low-quality score will do little to increase organic reach, in fact, it will do more to make sure that even your best content doesn’t get surfaced as often. I think all of my own Facebook friends have really been upping their games on social media over the past twelve months and while the reach that once appeared to be present on Facebook seems to be no longer there on Pages, there likely isn’t as much of a decline as you would imagine. The way Facebook report on the metrics today is better than the way that the metrics were presented a few years ago, as in they are now so much more accurate than at any point in the past. The reach probably isn’t too different, maybe slightly less but the bigger publishers will have felt the impact much more.

Another myth that is mostly false but has some elements of truth is the meme that has been going around to suggest that people can be sent to Facebook jail if the reader shakes their phone. Facebook has been rolling out a ‘shake to report’ feature in their mobile app but the feature does not collect reports about abusive posts or other terms-of-service violations and cannot accidentally trigger account suspensions or land the poster in Facebook jail. It’s just another way to report a glitch.

More than one year on...

It was at the beginning of 2018 when Mark Zuckerberg announced that he would commit to fixing everything bad about Facebook. That was a bold commitment given just how much there was to fix and whilst I sometimes might come across as a Facebook fanboy, the reality is that Facebook even with all of its faults and the bad press it continues to be the single most dominant platform for engagement. We might not always love it or even like it, but there is no denying that the force of Facebook underpins a lot of businesses.

Facebook does have its problems but not all of them are of Facebook’s making. If only 1% of the total account holders stopped playing by the rules, in a community of 2.4 billion that means that 24-million bad players would be doing their worst on the platform. Some of the issues are not to do with how Facebook works per se, but the sheer scale of Facebook means that plugging leaky holes is like trying to save a sinking ship by using an egg cup to throw out the water.

The problems at Facebook are baked in both the scale of the platform and a business model that relies on targeting users with adverts based on the data they share. This is problematic but it is also the cost of free. The other issue is that Facebook offers brilliant tools for creators and publishers but those same tools are misused by a minority and a smaller minority of people who perhaps don’t realise that there are other people present on the platform or don’t fully understand its nuances. Yes, if you post something publically it will be seen by someone you might not have wanted to see it.

Sure there are arguments for regulating social media, but having regulation alone is often a blunt instrument. Not for debate today but there is a power base already in its community who could be tapped to semi-self-regulate it. End users could be used to form community champion teams where the trained champions and volunteers could be given credit to use for advertising and reach which would be distributed through a third-party, but only if the community leaders play fairly. If the ultimate goal is to provide a community, the community should be part of the plan and it should be representative of a major cross-section of society. Mark Zuckerberg, if you are reading this we should definitely talk.

The only way to move away from Facebook, when you rely on it for business, is to try to find a replacement for it. That’s not easy when the likes of Google Plus have shuttered to everyone but those who have business accounts on there. If you want to see a platform with hardly any reach at all try using Google Plus as it is and now that the public element of it has gone away. The platform has visible tumbleweed rolling across it which leaves the question of why is it still around at all.

Platforms such as MeWe are responding to privacy issues by making a public display of how they never track you. It’s a laudable notion and something that everyone really wants deep down but having already spent a couple of months with an account on MeWe, I can categorically say that it isn’t Facebook, there has simply been no reach or engagement at all to date. Admittedly, I rarely ever go on there and as with every social platform you have to be committed to it to get the most value from it. But if the customers aren’t there, there is little point in spending any quality time on it. It raises another question, do we really want privacy above all else or do we really just like to see Facebook as the bad guy?

Facebook has at least been making multiple attempts at fixing what was definitely broken and yes, there is still some way to go. One of the more obvious fixes has been the introduction of comment ranking. Everything it seems is subject to being ranked by the big blue book. Comments are now also ranked on public posts from pages and people with a lot of followers. When posts get a lot of comments those comments also get ranked and these rankings feed into the algorithm too.

They use integrity signals which are picked up from the most authentic comments. If a comment violates the community standards then Facebook will remove it. They also take into account other signals, like engagement baiting (please like, comment and share to win), to address the integrity of the information and comments that people see.

Comment ranking can be turned off and on pages, with a large number of followers it is on by default and the page admin can still moderate the comments on their posts by deleting or hiding comments. If you currently don’t have a high number of followers then comment ranking won’t be available until you do. You can learn how to enable or disable comment ranking on Facebook’s official help page right here

The algorithm is also looking at how people interact with the comments. This includes signals which indicate that a person likes or reacts to comments and takes into account whether or not they reply to both further comments and replies. Facebook also takes other signals into account so that they do not show prominently low-quality comments, even if they are from the person who created the original post or their friends. Multiple algorithms it seems, what on earth could go wrong?

Quality Metrics are Now More Serious…

If you have read my articles for any number of years, the one thing I always say is that content is king. Because we consume so much content today we can pick and choose where and when we get quality content. The likes of streaming platforms such as Netflix and YouTube and even Facebook Watch provide us with not just entertainment but they offer value in other ways too. That’s a problem for small independent creators because we have to compete for eyes on our content and our artwork and we are having to compete with everything else that competes for the same sets of eyes, in short, we are having to compete with the big guns.

With the advent of 5G internet, it means that content will be consumed at a faster rate. Just around the corner 6G test-beds are now being prepared in test labs where tomorrow’s tech is already up and running at least in an early form. If you have seen the differences in speeds of 5G compared to 4G and have been impressed, then 6G will be something else entirely with talk of Terabyte per second download speeds already popping up into conversation. I saw the birth of a 5G test-lab in its infancy and was blown away by it, but today's 5G is significantly more impressive than it was in its infancy. 6G will be the exact same.

For a technology geek like me, this stuff is exciting and equally a little bit scary. All of this speed needs feeding and right now we should be setting our sights on taking advantage of it however we can even if we don’t personally want to buy into it. The only way to do this is to get more serious about content creation, drive up the quality, and think about where we might want to be in the future. Video is such a primary and important medium in anything and with art especially, video allows you to reach out to those who might otherwise have never heard of you.

To make things a little easier, Facebook has realised that creating video requires a skill level that most casual video creators might lack, the learning curve for pro-video editing can be very steep so they have introduced an approach to video creation called Create to Convert. Whilst this only covers the creation of video in Facebook ads, it is a great way for those new to video editing to create something that is more likely to work as an ad. You can read more about the process of creation right here

The Elephant In the Room...

The elephant in the room this week though has to be the question around whether or not video really does work and if it really will bring in new views and more importantly buyers. Much of that is down to the quality of the video and where you target it and who you target with it. The age-old conundrum of knowing your target audience has never been more important than right now. You see, video is not a magic bullet in and of itself. For some people, it works but for others, it can be hit and miss no matter what you read about it being the big thing. Not all content needs video and if you create just to tick the ‘done video’ box, it is more likely to fail.

If your audience isn’t into video already then you suddenly have two battles to overcome, getting them to watch it, and making it a quality experience to keep them coming back. A well-chosen photograph can still out-perform a video, I know because I have run A/B tests that albeit unscientifically, proved categorically to me that video should be used in the right place, at the right time, and with the right people. You have to know your audience and that’s the most difficult thing that as artists trying to market our work we will ever have to do, and when we do figure out who those people are, they change into a new demographic entirely.

We can research the best time to post, we can focus on our content to the point it could win an award for outstanding beauty, but none of this really matters unless we know who the audience is, to begin with. Every artist’s audience is going to be different, global surveys of the best times to post become insignificant if our own people aren’t around. 

Most of what we know about who we don’t know is that they are possibly slightly more likely to be around in the evenings and on weekends, and we know that generally shorter posts get more engagement. That’s not rocket science, it is the law of averages and knowing that we just do not have that much time to read things, but the only guaranteed way to make sure that your people see your content is to give them what they want and make sure that Facebook is seeing it as quality content so it surfaces more frequently. Sometimes all we can do is exactly what we can do and stay within the rules and that’s how you game the system but I seriously doubt many will truly ever win, the rules change too frequently.

With the emphasis so much on quality and just to give further credence to the fact that quality counts, a range of new quality tools have been introduced to Facebook’s business pages and groups. Group quality is available to admins of groups and this is where as a group administrator you get to find out if members of your group have been subject to enforcement of Facebook’s community standards.

To check your group quality, from your news feed click on Groups, and select whichever group you want to see. From there you will see an option in the group admin settings to see the quality of your group. Here you will see if any content has been removed for breaching the community standards and also any potential false news stories that have been shared.
If there are sufficient admin violations then Facebook could potentially disable the group, take down content, turn on temporary post approval for members who frequently share posts outside of the community standards, or show a groups content much lower in the news feed.

This is important to know if you run groups because ultimately as the admin or creator of the group you are the one who could be punished for allowing your groups to be misused. Being the admin of a group has always been tough for those who take it seriously, but now it has become even tougher. Hence there are no longer warnings handed out for misuse of the group in any of my four groups, infringements have to now result in an immediate ban. Multiple groups are even harder and if you are thinking of creating a group my advice is to really focus on having only one that you can give some serious time and attention too.

Facebook business pages have a similar system. Anyone who has a role on your business page can view the quality tab to see any recent community standards violations.  To see the Page Quality tab for your Page, go to your Page and click Page Quality at the top. If you have many tabs at the top of your Page, you may need to click ‘More’ at the top of your Page and then click Page Quality. This will give you a screen with hopefully a nice green tick and no violations. The tick will turn either green, yellow, or red, depending on if you are at risk of becoming unpublished.  Some indicators are not shown within this section, so just because a page seems healthy it doesn’t always mean that it is. You can read about some of those other page violations right here

If you want to take a stroll through some of the official and free, Facebook training on using and creating Pages, then you can find the link to get started right here

you are where you need to be, beechhouse media, mark taylor
Be Happy Where You Are


Privacy…

We have heard the stories time and time again on and in the news that Facebook isn’t keen on or always responsive when it comes to ensuring user privacy. This time though there are some significant differences that suggest they really are attempting to fix something that has been considered to be badly broken for a long time. Zuckerberg outlined six core principles at a recent event around which the company will build a new privacy-focused social network. Those six principles are:

  1. Private Interactions
  2. Encryption
  3. Reducing Permanence
  4. Safety
  5. Interoperability
  6. Secure Data Storage

Whilst these key principles sound great, Facebook has some way to go to convince many people that things are at last being taken much more seriously. There will be some increased interoperability between Messenger and What's App, and there will be some merging of the technology to make calls between users on different applications that sit under the overall Facebook eco-system much better. 

With many artists also having a presence on Instagram, this starts to make much more sense to focus on both platforms equally as there will be a reduction in the time needed to respond to comments and questions separately and within different apps. Facebooks dedicated Pages app makes the process simpler still, it seriously is underused.

Other Recent Updates…

Other news in groups includes the addition of keyword detection to make administering groups a little less burdensome for admins. The feature is rolling out slowly to groups and I set up keyword detection a few weeks back although I won’t share where. There are always some keywords that trolls and those who misuse Facebook tend to use and the system flags up posts where those words have appeared so that an admin can review the posts and comments and take appropriate action if needed. It is a handy feature that allows an admin to quickly deal with the rogues who sometimes slip through the membership net.

Fact checking is being extended to also, cover photos and videos and this is where as an artist you could fall foul of the algorithm. It’s not unusual for artists to depict controversy in their works which put more of an onus on ensuring posts also have the proper written context, especially when posting images that might have some more controversial points.

You are also more likely to get asked to complete an official Facebook survey that is in response to them wanting to make the news feed better and more relevant to users. A lot of people do tend to ignore Facebook surveys about the news feed, but what I can say is that these are the kinds of places that the Facebook teams look towards for direction about what is and isn’t needed in terms of functionality by the end user. You might never hear anything back but these things I am told really do get read and actioned on.

Context also becomes more critical when we look at the rollout of the context button. In 2018 the US started to see a context button being rolled out that gives more people more information on the content of Facebook posts and external links. If you press the context button you will be able to make better judgements as to whether to click on any external links or not. It really is all about context and quality baby! Features like this though are generally a very good thing, helping the reader to evaluate the credibility of an article including the publishers Wikipedia entry, related articles on the same topic, and other information such as how many times the article has been shared.

Other information will include a more from this publisher option where you will obviously get more articles from that publisher and it will also let you know which of your friends shared the article too. We are now starting to see more of these features over here in The UK too, and I expect a global rollout will conclude within the next few months. As always with Facebook, features do tend to appear then disappear, that’s just how the testing process works. At times it is frustrating because just as you really start to rely on a feature it might get pulled never to be seen again. Topics anyone?

The Key Take-Aways for Artists…

I know how difficult it is to create art and then have to market it single handily, there never seems to be enough time in the day and to then have to play within the rules too, well it can be a real strain for independent artists. I am brutally aware that reach declines but it is still possible to have content go viral. I think I proved that with a meme a couple of months back, something that took me 5 minutes to create was shared more widely than this site ever is or any of my artworks. It is categorically demotivating and soul destroying when you put your heart and soul into your work for it not to be appreciated more. I get it. I did think about giving up on social media altogether a few months ago but when I looked at the numbers it just didn’t make sense.

But the world is changing and we do have to keep moving forward as we always do. All I can say is at least the recent updates are for the greater good and hopefully as a result, work will be once again resurfaced. The key focus though is to concentrate on the quality over and above the number of posts. It has never really been any different, but if you focus on the quality and make posts that become more shareable it really does help you when it comes to reaching an audience organically.

My predictions for the coming year are that we will see a few more bad news stories about the big blue book, and we will see more and more tools geared towards privacy. My take on it is that when the platform does start to have much better privacy controls in place, it will become infinitely more difficult to reach out organically.

If posts are not getting the reach now when they are public, adding layer upon layer of privacy controls isn’t going to do much to extend that reach further. But with that said, there is also an opportunity to start growing an organic audience right now, you just have to focus on giving them exactly what they want and that’s the bit we are all trying to figure out. It’s not like anyone tells us. Perhaps that’s what I mean when I write about listening to what people say and more intently at what they don’t.

My other prediction is that we will begin to hear so much more about Facebook’s plans to roll out a new digital currency called Libra, next year. With the growing trend of gig economy businesses, it will be another payment option that we as artists might have to think about dealing with. With many of us making sales already through the platform we may have to consider Libra as a way of reaching certain demographics. More on that when we finally get more news coming out of the valley but we are already seeing stories where US lawmakers are asking Facebook to hold off on progressing the project further, there will be more of that I am sure.

Some Summer Works…

As it is summer, or at least it is trying to be summer-like over here in the UK, I thought I would wrap up the week with three works I released in 2017 that each inch you closer to a seaside breeze!

ship and boat fishing artwork by Mark Taylor, fishing season,
Retiring From The Fleet by Mark Taylor

Retiring from the Fleet


Inspired by more than 400 years of maritime and fishing history in and around the vast and often stormy waters of New England, this is the third in a series of works depicting fishing boats that I have created.

From the arrival of the Pilgrims in Plymouth in 1620 to the present day, the coasts of New England have been the sites of defensive forts and the home of commerce, fishing, whaling, and the shipbuilding industry.

Retiring from the Fleet shows a small fishing vessel anchored close to shore drifting perilously towards shallower waters and dangerous rocks. The boat has been at sea for many years but the tough conditions for fishermen who have risked their lives for the entirety of their careers, the shrinking quotas, and declining markets have meant that many who once relied on going out to sea to make a living have abandoned their vessels in the hope of one day returning.

The ocean has taken its toll on this boat, rusting and slowly eroding. The glass is cracked, and the rope strains as every wave erode a fisherman’s dream just a little more. But she’s still floating, and hope remains that one day she will go out onto the raging sea just one more time.

I wanted to create this work to celebrate the human achievement of the remarkable shipbuilding and engineering that has come out of New England and to celebrate the courage of those who go out to sea. My goal is to inspire those who see my work to look more carefully and closely at the world around them, to remember the stories and remember the people. You can view and order a print of this work right here


Free Spirit…

free spirit, fishing boat art, Mark Taylor, Beechhouse Media,
Free Spirit by Mark Taylor

Join the fishing vessel Free Spirit and her crew as she sails back towards her catch in building seas. The gulls catching the wind in anticipation of an easy meal, the crew hunkering down and catching their breath before hours of frenzied string pulling lies ahead. Battling time and quotas before the season is over and they return home to their loved ones.

An ageing fishing boat 300 nautical miles from land, limited supplies on board and weather fronts that can change in an instant. The wave’s crash against the old wooden hull and the metal work rusted from the conditions of this fishing season alone. The crew rely on getting a good price for their catch but the competition is also out at sea and hoping for the same.

I hope you love this work as much as I loved creating it. You can view and order a print of this work right here

Osprey…

Osprey, Fishing Boat Art, Mark Taylor,
Osprey by Mark Taylor

Join the fishing vessel Osprey as she sails back towards home. The gulls catching the wind in anticipation of an easy meal, and calm tropical seas gently lapping against her bow.

An ageing fishing boat not too far from land sailing through the shallows in an ocean so vast. Every single day fishermen around the world go out for days or weeks at a time to provide those on land with food. Trying to meet quotas, the crew can only hope that today’s prices will cover their fuel, the competition is tough.

My fascination with oceans and the fishing villages around the world has provided me with inspiration for many of the works I produced over the summer of 2017. I have such enormous respect for those who go out to sea every day and risk everything. I hope you love this work as much as I loved creating it. You can view and order this work right here

My Time…

As I said at the beginning of this article, I will be taking some time out to explore over the next couple of weeks. I plan to give my new camera equipment a run and will post free reference photos on my Facebook page, but for now, I would just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who supports me either through reading my articles here or purchasing my work which allows me to create the articles you read. Without your continued support, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this. Thanks for all the shares, loves, likes, and wows, and for the comments that always manage to pick me right back up. I really do deeply appreciate it whenever you do. 

As always, Best Wishes and Happy Creating,
Mark
xx

About Mark…

I am an artist and blogger and live in Staffordshire, England. You can purchase my art through my Fine Art America store or my Pixels site here: https://10-mark-taylor.pixels.com  
Any art sold through Fine Art America and Pixels contributes to the ongoing costs of running and developing this website. You can also view my portfolio website at https://beechhousemedia.com 

You can also follow me on Facebook at https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia where you will also find regular free reference photos of interesting subjects and places I visit. You can also follow me on Twitter @beechhouseart and on Pinterest at https://pinterest.com/beechhousemedia

If you would like to support the upkeep of this site or maybe just buy me a coffee, you can do so right here. Every penny goes towards the upkeep of this site, carrying out the research for articles, and giving me the opportunity to support other independent visual artists. Without this support, I would never be able to continue doing this on my own.

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