Last September, at their f8 Developer's Conference, Facebook excitedly unveiled a new breed of app that would allow users to 'seamlessly update Timeline with their activity as they go'. Mark Zuckerberg spoke of the 'frictionless sharing' that apps such as the Washington Post Social Reader would now enable. The user reaction was mixed, at best, so there was little sympathy this week when Forbes published an article indicating that the usage of these apps was tanking. Facebook seemed to confirm with a statement to Poynter saying that 'these apps have begun leveling off to a more consistent, sustainable and engaged audience'.
New explanations for the user decline soon emerged but they did little to calm the fears of brands and marketers who rely on the Facebook platform. TechCrunch noted that Facebook had recently switched from a personalized 'recently read articles' to a more generic 'trending article' box in the Newsfeed. The net result has been lower visibility and decreased effectiveness for the apps. GigaOm explained the powerful message for all Facebook marketers: you don't own your Facebook exposure. Facebook does. The big lesson of the week is that Facebook marketing investments come with risks that are quite different from the challenges of a dedicated business web site or blog.