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The commonly held belief is that Facebook is holding content hostage in order to force users and small businesses to use the "promote" button, as recently reported by Abby Koenig on the Houston Press blog Art Attack. Or it could perhaps be a response to the company's continued poor performance on Wall Street; the answer is somewhat complicated.

First, remember that EdgeRank is the way Facebook decides what you will and won't see in your newsfeed. Now, before you start hammering the keyboard about "being watched" or "they have no right," you need to face some very important facts.

Facebook is a service you signed onto and use voluntarily under their terms. Under those terms, it has pretty much every right in the book; if you don't like them, you can sue or stop using Facebook. Clear? Good.

EdgeRank is very, very important, since it's the only thing that keeps Facebook from becoming everything that made us leave MySpace. The algorithm assigns weight to content based on your actions while you're logged in. Do you continuously like cat videos and misattributed inspirational quotes over beautiful scenery memes? If so, hi, Grandma!

Well, the system notes that, so when your friends or a business you've liked post those things, or other content that is somehow connected, Facebook makes sure you see them in your newsfeed.

"What really is happening: Facebook is cutting the fat," said Tim Peterson in an excellent recent AdWeek article. "Rather than spamming the feeds for all of a brand's fans — including those who may have liked the brand's page years ago but never interacted with it on Facebook since — Facebook seems to have changed EdgeRank so that brands' posts only pop up in the feeds of those most likely to like, comment or share it."

In order for bands to continue reaching a wider audience through Facebook, they will be required to create content that engages an audience. Your posts have to be the sort of thing that makes people who see it click "like," "comment" and "share." The less your content does so, the lower it will fall in EdgeRank.

This may seem unfair to bands, who I find to be kind of a self-entitled lot on this issue. Typical thinking these days seems to be that since Facebook is free and most people have it, use of it is some kind of inalienable right. It's not. Facebook does not owe you free advertising and was not designed to provide such.

Really, the algorithm change is a challenge to musicians. If you want to reach higher and higher numbers of people, then what you put on Facebook must be the sort of thing that makes people immediately want to say something about it or tell others.

This might mean better tunes, cleverer song titles, political rants, commentary on the industry, humorous memes or who knows what else. This is a social network; the goal is to be social. Jef With One F

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