Oh, Facebook, you’ve changed. The decreased organic reach of the Social Media bell cow has been well documented for some time now; brand likes and follows (and the ability to generate them) have slowed to a trickle with the enhancements to Facebook’s interface and the changes to their business model.
It’s certainly not surprising in retrospect. There was revenue to be made from making changes, and, frankly, the value and ROI of likes and follows was always a little hazy (though many tried to define it). Custom Audience ad targeting on Facebook today can show strong, tangible results when done effectively, resulting in a win for Facebook and for brands alike. Granted, the ad formats aren’t exactly eye-catching – the sponsored news feed ads are much better than in the past, but the right-hand column ads are positively ’90s in design – but we’ve seen brands from all sizes and industries using them to great advantage.
Some brands – even some among us in the travel industry – are still trying to squeeze value out of tactics that drive likes and check-ins, though. Marriott, for one, recently launched a campaign called PlusPoints, which gives members the option to earn points for “liking, tweeting, posting, and checking in on social media.” It sounds fair enough on the surface, though the execution is a little wobbly for sure. For example, in exchange for connecting your Plus Points account to Facebook, Marriott will receive “your public profile, friend list, email address, News Feed, relationships, updates, checkins, education history, events, groups, hometown, interests, current city, photos, questions, religious and political views, personal description, and likes.” If they actually plan on using all of this info, I'll be duly impressed/terrified.
What really struck me about the approach is that Marriott requires you to sign in via Facebook before allowing you to sign in via Twitter, Instagram, or Foursquare. What if you’re not on Facebook (of if you’re simply not that active)? I’m not a Facebook doomsayer, by any means – they’re wildly successful and their user experience has come a very long way (if you haven’t tried Paper, their iOS mobile app, I highly recommend it) – but Facebook isn’t the only game in town anymore. Requiring a Facebook login is like saying that you can use your Yahoo or AOL email address to communicate, but you have to get a Gmail address first.
Social has essentially started entering its awkward tween years. The dissolution of the channel – from Instagram to Twitter to Path to Pinterest and on and on – means that marketers need to truly understand three things:
While many Social strategies will include a heavy Facebook component, the time for driving likes (and follows and checkins) alone has past. Like email, it’s not a question of many you have; it’s a question of how you’re creating the best experience for (and getting the most out of) the ones you’ve got – and not just in the Social channel, but across channels as well. Marriott’s campaign may be a blockbuster and I wish them well, but there’s great opportunity in other Social outlets too – some of which may be strongly preferred over Facebook.
The experiences we sell in travel are suited so well to the more visually oriented Social brands in particular – like Instagram (Kimpton and Airbnb are using it to great effect today) and Pinterest, which just announced new paid ads that promise to create a strong, measurable tool for marketers. Facebook itself is still a winning channel, too, with Custom Audience (especially when you measure its effectiveness with other channels like email) – but just as Facebook has evolved from likes and checkins to Custom Audience (and whatever comes next), consumer preferences have changed and adapted to the new landscape as well. Make sure the strategy you create and the tactics you enlist are keeping pace.