Hey, Advertisers and Agencies, Let's All Hate On Facebook!

Who declared open season on Facebook? Lately, it seems as if everyone has. So in this Social Media Insider, we shall jump on the bandwagon by recounting all of the ways that advertisers and agencies can hate on Facebook, just because everybody’s doing it. Oh, and we shall also look into whether this is all hate for the sake of hating, or something deeper and more troubling. Let’s get to the whining, forthwith:
  • The chances of advertisers gaining organic reach are dwindling. Two years ago, Facebook told advertisers that only 16% of posts in newsfeeds were actually seen; now the percentage for posts from Pages is reportedly down to as low as 2%, per Social@Ogilvy. No wonder the agency titled its study on organic reach “Facebook Zero.” Ouch.
  • The astonishingly low organic reach has an obvious corollary that is really easy to hate on: If organic reach is dead, long live paid reach! Except that of course advertisers don’t want to pay to reach the fans they already have.
  • And then there’s Nate Elliott from Forrester Research, who, after originally setting off alarm bells about Facebook advertising late last year, summed up the whole hatefest thusly: “Just four months later, the debate [about whether Facebook serves advertisers] seems to be over. Is there any doubt now that Facebook has abandoned social marketing, and that its paid ad products aren’t delivering results for most marketers?”

Kinda sounds like Elliott has zero doubt. However, as is almost always the case with trend-driven digital marketers, it’s important to take a step back and ask whether the advertising community may be falling out of love with Facebook, just cause it’s time. There are so many other enticing social platforms out there just dying to be loved, and Facebook may be yesterday’s news. If this can all be chalked up to advertiser boredom, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

Much as I still love Facebook on a personal level -- and have defended its ad model in the past -- this time I have to wonder if the hating has a basis in reality. As more people and products have come on to Facebook, the newsfeed has become hopelessly clogged. Even as individuals, we feel it. When you combine that  issue with algorithms that boost popular content -- and downplay so-so content -- you have a massive reservoir of content that never gets seen.

I certainly don’t have access to the huge amounts of data that most of you do, but anecdotally, I’ve seen this at work in my own small circles.  Just yesterday, a woman in the town where I live asked me whether I’d seen the invite to “Like” a page for her business. I hadn’t. And then I found myself giving her advice that  seems in sync with what hours upon hours on Facebook have told me is true: focusing on “Likes” probably wasn’t worth it for her, unless she was willing to pay a little to get her posts seen.

A far more fruitful route, I told her, was to do something I’ve increasingly been doing in my work for my local library: posting content directly to our very active local Facebook group of about 1,100 members. As Facebook has gotten bigger, these groups are often Facebook in microcosm. Engagement is higher both because the content is targeted and because it isn’t competing with everything else that’s out in a feed. It’s rare to see a post there with no “Likes” or comments.

This organic reach strategy works for me, and I hope it works for her. But it won’t work for most advertisers because it doesn’t scale, nor can advertisers buy their way into most of these mini-Facebooks. Even if they could, the backlash in these small groups would be incredible.

Which still leaves Facebook with a big problem. Don’t ask me what the solution is.

10 comments about "Hey, Advertisers and Agencies, Let's All Hate On Facebook! ".
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  1. David Culbertson from LightBulb Interactive, March 21, 2014 at 3:28 p.m.

    Well-said. A great reminder that while Facebook is great for individuals and small communities such as the example you offer, brands might ultimately be better off focusing elsewhere - like on their own websites. :-)

  2. Robert Brill from, March 21, 2014 at 3:28 p.m.

    Sounds to me like Facebook has some convincing evidence that shows it is indelibly linked to the end consumer's everyday life. Anecdotally I can say with confidence this is true. With that leverage, knowing that advertisers must follow the end consumer, they are looking to ramp up ad spending quite appropriately.

    It's certainly possible that Facebook's strategy will involve placing greater social marketing emphasis on Instagram, while maintaining Facebook as a cash cow paid media platform.

    As an advertising partner Facebook is still a strong opportunity, and I think they will capitalize on their strengths. This value involves great first party data, innovative native ad units, an easy to use programmatic ad platform and a growing mobile ad business. I think they are on the verge of becoming an indispensable platform to deliver validated video GRP reach through their partnership with Nielsen and the very recent introduction of video ad units.

    So, I see a long and prosperous road ahead for Facebook. Advertisers and agencies must simply handle change, and try to win the future.

  3. Dani Klein from MediaCom, March 21, 2014 at 3:32 p.m.

    Also missed: buying Facebook fans is basically throwing away your money:

  4. Steve Plunkett from Cool Websites Organization, March 21, 2014 at 4:33 p.m.

    you are just now catching up...

  5. Tony Nino from PADV Pasadena Advertising, March 21, 2014 at 6:01 p.m.

    I'll just leave this here.

  6. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, March 22, 2014 at 6:34 p.m.

    Facebook is even worse than many of you think. Sweepstakes Today according to several Fortune client's agencies said we produced more sweepstakes entries on their Facebook sweep than Facebook. The simple reason is, Facebook is not connecting to the older age groups that sweeping is popular with. The older age groups have money, the younger ones don't. Facebook is under the pressure of the stockholders now and they won't be as kind to them as some snot-nose high school kid.

  7. Dan Cho from Agency X, March 24, 2014 at 1:53 p.m.

    Maybe your content stinks and nobody cares about it. Ever think of that.

  8. Carl Blackwell from NMMA, March 24, 2014 at 2:25 p.m.

    If they are so consumer - centric, why don't they re-ask their consumers who they want to get posts from and who they don't want posts from. I'd rather reach half my audience than none. I mean they either sold us likes - which by the way, consumers make conscious decisions to click the like button or we've all busted our fannies to grow our base organically - in most cases both. I still have organic reach on Google. I don't think this is being played smartly by FB but what do I know, I'm just one of their customers.

  9. Anne Peterson from Idaho Public Televsion, March 24, 2014 at 8:04 p.m.

    I am careful with my "likes." If I "like" something I want to see it! Period. There are days I have trouble receiving posts from a page I am an administrator on, and take at least one action on every post I do see (like, comment, share).

  10. Carl Blackwell from NMMA, March 24, 2014 at 8:11 p.m.

    If you take action now on your own page - like or comment or share a post from your personal account, FB will pop up competitors "Like" ads. So now competitors or similar pages can cherry pick your consumers that do engage. I thought that was an especially nice dash of salt in the wound after they took away all your impressions.

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