Nate Elliot, Forrester analyst in the social media track, published a report with the headline and subhead, “Why Facebook Is Failing Marketers: The Leading Social Network Has Abandoned Social Marketing.”
His position is that Facebook has devolved into a “push” media company and thus abandoned its early claims to be a new kind of “social media marketer.” Essentially, Nate says that the smart advertiser money is leaving Facebook. The report synthesizes interviews with 395 US, Canadian and UK business executives.
In short, Nate’s argument doesn’t hold water. He may be hearing some cooling of enthusiasm from marketers in favor of spreading their investments across digital and social. But the headline prematurely signals the demise of Facebook, which remains a strong platform for many brands.
What the study really says
POINT 1: Two charts make it clear that 395 business executives are unsure of the measured value of all digital and social media from Facebook to LinkedIn to even banner advertising. When asked of all the options out there whether they were very dissatisfied to very satisfied, all responses averaged between 3.54 to 3.84. All of the choices are in the middle. This is hardly the wholesale critique of Facebook that Nate makes it out to be. This simply restates what we all know – industry-standard measurement isn’t there yet.
POINT 2: Facebook can be hard to work with. If you are not spending significantly in annual ad spend and if you have not cultivated a good relationship with a Facebook “rep”, brands have a hard time getting the attention of those at Facebook capable of doing interesting things. They have a small staff (4600+) compared with Google’s 45,000. They simply cannot service marketers (clients) as brands would like. This sometimes breeds “dissatisfaction.
Connecting and activating fans with affinity for the brand
POINT 3: Facebook isn’t for every brand. It certainly isn’t the only play in social media for most brands. Still it remains a very valuable platform for many as it allows brands to establish addressable relationships with customers and people who have an affinity for a brand. Many brands have not had an efficient way to connect directly with customers. The relationships are held by retailers, brokers or some other sales channel. Facebook can help change that.
Helping small business have an “addressable” relationship with their customers and prospects
POINT 4: Facebook can work well for small to medium business. That means it can become a valuable platform for brands who maintain a sales channel or agent-based model. Brands can help their agents master digital and social media, including Facebook, to build their business.
Continuous innovation and better targeting (including mobile)
POINT 5: Facebook continues to innovate and invent new advertising opportunities. Some feel more “push” than “pull.” We should expect that they will continue to release improvements on targeting. We should not judge yesterday’s ad choices too harshly as more is on the way. Look-a-likes, email list targeting, friends-of-fans are all strong innovations. And Facebook has made great improvements in their mobile ad solution such that only last week they announced, “the company noted that mobile ads accounted for 49 percent of its advertising revenue, up from 41 percent in the second quarter”
POINT 6: At the same time, they are operationalizing their ad sales operation to make it more efficient. This makes them feel like a traditional media company where every question is met with a stock ad sales answer. All one has to do is work in China with Sina Weibo and experience their exuberant “let’s try stuff” approach to advertisers to see how institutionalized Facebook is becoming. If you want more bespoke solutions, brands must invest money on the platform. That’s what many major brands have done.
The “smart money” isn’t leaving Facebook
Point 7: Brands continue to invest in Facebook believing in the value while also spending in other platforms. Big FMCG’s have been operationalizing their use of the platform and the way they measure value. Facebook provides a strong global platform for many of these brands. It helps the global center at a FMCG stimulate change by having a world’s worth of their brand marketers mastering a single platform.
As reported in the NY Times, Q3 financials for Facebook stated that the marketplace of brands continues investing in the platform, “The company’s revenue rose 60 percent, to $2.02 billion, compared with last year’s third quarter. Most of that, about $1.8 billion, came from advertising”
Of course, other platforms matter as much or more. For B2B, LinkedIn can be a tremendous platform. Twitter is hungrily releasing new features that appeal to advertisers. Pinterest will have formal ad offerings any day.
No brand should put all of their eggs in one basket yet some of those eggs belong on Facebook.