Facebook Isn't Failing Marketers -- Marketers Are Failing Marketers

This week, Forrester analyst Nate Elliott wrote an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg expressing concern that Facebook is essentially failing marketers. Elliott cites a recent Forrester study, which surveyed 395 marketers across large companies in U.S., the U.K. and Canada.

The reasons given are quite straightforward:

1.     Facebook does not do enough to drive engagement between brand and its customers

2.     Facebook isn’t good enough at pure advertising (display advertising) and to that end, is not leveraging its treasure trove of social data to serve people like me less ads for erectile dysfunction and weight loss remedies.

I like and respect Nate a lot, and I don’t want to turn this post into a critique or compliment of his bold position. Personally, I’m surprised it’s taken anyone this long to reach a conclusion that I’ve been fairly consistent on throughout my soapbox antics of the past few years: Facebook is not a media channel. It is the world’s largest and greatest “non-media” connection engine. I define non-media as humans connecting with other humans. In this case, humans posting and commenting on oodles and oodles of photos, wishing each other happy birthday, sympathizing on tragedy and celebrating triumph.



Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped shoes, cans of soda or other inanimate objects from friending me -- and, in rare circumstances, where I absolutely LOVE a brand, it is dead set on downgrading my LOVE into “Like.”

So how on earth should we be expecting returns on our media dollars for a platform that is inherently non-media? Granted, Facebook should be doing a better job of doing the things which Nate says they aren’t doing or doing enough of. Overselling and under-delivering is never a viable or sustaining long-term practice. Nor is relying on mega-reach, which let’s be honest, is no better or worse than any broadcast network.

So I’m going to cut Facebook some slack here and put the blame squarely on marketers, who have performed a lazy and desperate Hail Mary by dumping most of their eggs (digital or analog) into the basket of Facebook.

Guess what, folks? Facebook is neither a panacea, nor a false prophet (profit?) There’s a reason all the early Facebook success stories centered around Arab Springs, bone marrow transplants and cancer survivor stories, as opposed to tired ways for Pepto-Bismol to get you to like them.

For the most part, marketers have been unimaginative, uninspiring, lazy, predictable, traditional, boring and one-dimensional when it comes to their Facebook presence. Where is all the inventiveness, innovation, creativity or originality?

I can’t help but reincarnate my favorite booster pastime, Second Life. It appears brands do equally poorly when it comes to too much reach, as it does with not enough.

Facebook is a non-media platform when it comes to consumers connecting with other consumers, but it is also a non-media rental property, which is great for timeshare, but not exactly the place you want to grow old in and pass down to future generations. Marketers have bet the farm on a third-party middleman -- and in doing so, settled for a subservient tenant relationship. The problem here is that when every brand on this planet is doing likewise, the collective bar is lowered and the result is a bottom-feeder quagmire of clutter and mediocrity.

So here’s my message to marketers: Before you lament your lack of results on Facebook, reflect on your own inefficiencies and inadequacies; challenge yourselves to take some risks and venture out of your comfort zones before you point the finger elsewhere. By all means, take Facebook to task for their laziness and challenge them to raise their standards, but remember you will always be nothing but a transient tenant if you continue to rent media and lease attention.

By the way, if I generalized or stereotyped at all in this piece, I just took a leaf out of your marketing playbook.

10 comments about "Facebook Isn't Failing Marketers -- Marketers Are Failing Marketers".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, October 31, 2013 at 11:19 a.m.

    The growing clutter is Marshall McLuhan's "Reverse" law of media come to pass -- any system pushed to its extreme will begin to operate in reverse. The more there is to see, the less we see any of it. By the way, McLuhan saw this coming way before Facebook was around to blame.

  2. Matt Ruzz from Hiring? Let's talk!, October 31, 2013 at 2:50 p.m.


  3. Kenneth Hittel from Ken Hittel, October 31, 2013 at 5:55 p.m.

    Joseph, you're being way too kind to Nate here. The Forrester study is sensationalist at best, completely disingenuous at worst. Pls. take a look at the chart of digital activities: on a scale of 1 to 5, not one thing rates a 4; the best performer in terms of satisfaction is rated rated 3.84; the lowest rated is Facebook -- at 3.54. This is what is charitably known -- certainly to a competent Forrester analyst -- as statistically insignificant. What's the math on 0.30 out of 4.00?
    As anyone who knows me knows, I'm no Facebook fanboy -- but this study is just bogus.

  4. Kenneth Hittel from Ken Hittel, October 31, 2013 at 5:59 p.m.

    Excuse me -- the study is not bogus; the conclusion drawn is, however.

  5. Robert Pettee from DigitalMouth Advertising, October 31, 2013 at 6:50 p.m.

    Study aside (great points made already), Zuck's job is to make money for FB, not to pass some sort of satisfaction survey.

    I agree on placing the onus on marketers to be creative & innovative. One of the most interesting and risky problems for marketers in FB is how to get innovative and original inside a platform that enables immediate, uncontrolled, viral repercussions for even the smallest of missteps... and how big brands adapt to the necessity for controlled, calculated originality (or does that defeat the original purpose?).

  6. Chris Wood from Xerox, October 31, 2013 at 8:38 p.m.

    I guess I'm about to invite a deluge of criticism, but here goes. As Joseph says, FB is non media and, I don't know about you, but I spend my (limited) time on Facebook 'engaging' with friends. Having a relationship or 'engaging' with some soda or biscuit brand is pretty low on my list of priorities - even if I can get a coupon worth 20p (or cents) off my next purchase as a 'reward'. Hey if it don't taste good, 20p isn't going to get me to buy it!! Mind you, if I was buying a TV for £700, I'd look for recommendations - but be more likely to ask someone I work with for their opinion over a pint. BTW, there are things Forrester does well, but bear in mind it basically exists to promote tech. Does it really know much about marketing? Not when compared with the main agency groups which have been using consumer buying process, customer insight and behavioural psychology for decades.

  7. Carri Bugbee from Big Deal Digital, October 31, 2013 at 8:56 p.m.

    I don't think it much matters whether Nate's numbers were statistically relevant. It appears that he got an earful of complaints about Facebook from the marketers he spoke to. I’m guessing that the virulence of those complaints about Facebook’s bait and switch tactics (promising a new way to engage with customers, but steadily degrading that so that ads are the only viable option) far outweighed the story told by stats.

    Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if marketers specifically asked him to make a stand. Facebook is not a trusted platform (less trusted than the NSA, in fact:, so brands and agencies may actually fear making public statements that lambast the platform. Seriously.

    Facebook is welcome to pursue any business model it wants to, but if marketers are fed up, they will take their dollars elsewhere. We all know most marketing decisions are not based wholly on data—if at all.

    I agree with Joseph that most marketing efforts on Facebook are woefully dull and pointless. But Facebook doesn’t make it easy to learn and implement best practices, the platform changes all the time, and there is zero customer support—until AFTER you’ve committed to a major ad buy. If Facebook wants to make nice with marketers, it could start with customer service.

  8. Chuck Lantz from, network, November 1, 2013 at 5:12 p.m.

    One problem with FB are the blatant lies told to their users. The biggest lie involves the constant stream of FB notification emails sent to everyone on their mailing list, which announces "You have notifications!" But nine times out of ten, when opening the email - and thereby adding your name to an "active user" list - you find, after a few clicks, a message saying "You have no notifications." At which point you are in no mood to respond to an ad. Yes, there is a loyal FB user group, but I would bet it's only a sliver of the numbers Zuck and company are selling to all you ad folk. The rest is smoke and mirrors.

  9. Jeff Koenig from digiriot, INC, November 1, 2013 at 5:20 p.m.

    Facebook is a massive waste of time and money as a platform for marketing and promotion, either organic or paid. Points made by @Mike Einstein, @Chris Wood, and others in the comments here point to the real problems with the viability of the platform.

    Also, @Robert Pettee - you'd be surprised how often passing a "satisfaction survey" is a good way to make money for your company, especially when it's your paying customers that are dissatisfied.

  10. Mike O from Hair Studio 322, November 2, 2013 at 12:09 a.m.

    Wow, that is a little off base. We get picked every now and then to do testing on FB and I think it is an amazing platform. Companies are rocking in sales and consumer engagement everyday.
    The trick to FB is there is no tricks! It's raw and you have to know how to navigate and engage your fans. It's close to twitter but more defined since you have 2.3 seconds to grab your marketing message for engagement. Now let's break it down.
    1. Facebook does not do enough to drive engagement between brand and its customers
    Answer: No, it's not facebooks job or mission to do anything to drive engagement. Even though they offer you the tools, it your job to know your audience and market your messages in your posts. Unlike twitter and other platforms facebook is a "true" social media tool that takes practice to own.
    2. Facebook isn’t good enough at pure advertising (display advertising) and to that end, is not leveraging its treasure trove of social data to serve people like me less ads for erectile dysfunction and weight loss remedies.
    Well, that part of the "google" and facebook joining forces will fix that this January 2014 which I think will destroy 35% of facebook users impressions causing them to leave. You see everything is tracked and if you know how to use the tools it's easy to get your marketing message out for engagement and a sale. We run a few pages on facebook and have had great success, now we're new to twitter and have found it's a totally different platform then all our other website marketing we do.

Next story loading loading..