Facebook Failing Marketers? It’s Not Facebook’s Fault

By November 1, 2013 July 20th, 2014 Creative Disruption

The video above was filmed after I read an article in Forbes today that said Facebook was failing marketers. The article was written as an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg. The article was well written and it touched on a some very good points regarding marketing on Facebook.

One of those points being that while Facebook raked in over $4 billion in ad revenues last year, only a small amount of marketers enjoy any kind of real, measurable, success on Facebook.

The article quotes a recent study by Forrester that confirmed this.

In August, Forrester surveyed 395 marketers and eBusiness executives at large companies across the US, Canada and the UK — and these executives told us that Facebook creates less business value than any other digital marketing opportunity.

Mentioned as one of the problems with Facebook is the fact that it doesn’t foster the type of true engagement that those marketing in social media really find valuable. In fact, the author pretty much declares that Facebook may actually be hindering marketing.

Your sales materials tease marketers with the promise that you’ll help them create such connections. But in reality, you rarely do. Everyone who clicks the like button on a brand’s Facebook page volunteers to receive that brand’s messages — but on average, you only show each brand’s posts to 16% of its fans.

And while your company upgrades its advertising tools and offerings monthly or more, you’ve done little in the past 18 months to improve your unloved branded page format or the tools that marketers use to manage and measure those pages.

I’ve always believed that marketers have been swayed by the number of fans that they think they have on Facebook. I wish Facebook would hide that number. One of the reasons that they don’t is because too many marketers are intoxicated by that number. As the author states, and I think he’s being generous, only 16% or so of the fans on your page ever have a chance of seeing your content. Couple that with the fact that 90% of your fans never actually come back to a brand’s Facebook page and you see why looking at a totality of fans is a fool’s game.

Only a fraction of your fans ever see your content. So it’s true. Facebook is screwing brands. If only a mere fraction of your fans ever see your content (and hopefully you’re actually producing content), why is so much money and attention being paid to a platform where you’ll only enjoy a 1 to 2% engagement?

In addition to imposed restrictions on the viewership of content, along with the horrible engagement rates, the ads on Facebook simply aren’t that good.

Second, your company isn’t good enough at the pure advertising business onto which you’ve shifted your focus. We estimate your site now delivers tens of billions of display ads every day. But fewer than 15% of those ads leverage your ever-growing cache of social data to target relevant audiences. And your site’s static-image ad units offer marketers less impact per impression than they could achieve with the ad units other sites offer. The result? The executives we surveyed said Facebook’s … ads were less valuable than any other marketing tactic they could use on your site.

The author of the Forbes article has a lot of credibility here. He is Nate Elliott, Vice President and Principal Analyst of Forrester. Yes, the company who performed the study.

I agree with Nate. Facebook has indeed failed marketers. But I think we have to look beyond the study. While Facebook is, in my opinion, screwing brands, the brands and their advertising agencies have some culpability as well.

tnfacebookcoverWith paid ads, I have found that you can substantially increase visibility, but then it comes down to content. Facebook may be at fault for maintaining a tight spigot, but think about it. Maybe they had to. Just think how much crap would be in users feeds if they showed everything to everyone.

You want big numbers on Facebook? Create stellar content and support it with ads that people actually want to engage with. I personally find sponsored stories much more effective. I also think marketers need to understand that Facebook is merely a content distribution platform.

With all of this data available to brands, you have to wonder why brands are putting such a focus on Facebook when clearly most of what they do isn’t working. As I mentioned in the video above, is it because agencies tell them they need to be on Facebook?

I doubt that Facebook can be organically viable given the current restrictions. I agree with Elliott that there’s still time for Facebook to turn it around. But if Facebook turned things around today, most brands would still be left with lackluster content that no one wants to consumer or share.

To me, that’s a huge problem. You have to give Facebook some credit. In order to protect their users, they had to do something to stop the spewing of crappy content polluting the streams of their users. By doing this they are forcing us all to up our games and produce content that resonates. You just can’t post the same old slogan-laden, commercial pablum over and over again.

Until brands begin realizing that the type of content that matters on social isn’t the same type of content that is created by most advertising agencies, I think we’ll see this problem only get worse.

Instead of lamenting about what Facebook is doing wrong or how Facebook is failing marketers, perhaps a lot of marketers and their agencies should take a long, hard look in the mirror. Own it. Realize that you’re not telling a good enough story for people to care. So in essence, you’re a willing accomplice to your failure on Facebook.

But look on the bright side, at least by pumping out the same old content, day after day, you’re keeping 4 or 5 advertising agency staffers employed.

That’s so generous of you.


Barry Cunningham

Author Barry Cunningham

Barry Cunningham is an antagonist of conventional wisdom. Check out our case studies. They will give you an idea how we help brands & businesses amplify their conversion and lead gen campaigns by deploying digital advertising campaigns at scale. And I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter.

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