Facebook Is An Advertising Channel -- Isn't It Time We All Got Over It?

There has been recent speculation that brands would begin to quit Facebook. Until recently, however, that appeared to be all it was -- talk.

Now that brands are achieving social success beyond Facebook, a lot of people are commenting on the scenario as if it's something Facebook should be worried about.

They are wrong -- very wrong. We'll get to why in a moment; first some background.

The argument against Facebook was that although nobody liked reaching a single-digit percentage of their "fans," there wasn't a whole lot of choice.

But as Marketing has been reporting, brands are actually now discovering there is a choice. The example of Burberry getting more engagement on Instagram than on Facebook, despite having a following seven times higher on Facebook, is very telling. Then there's Red Bull -- which, in June, had twenty times more engagement than Coca-Cola on Facebook, although it had a far smaller following.

In fact, June's figures show a very odd set of results for Coca-Cola. Despite getting more than half the new likes in the non-alcoholic drinks category for the month -- in which it was a Fifa World Cup sponsor -- it got a negligible proportion of engagement. Instead, Nescafe and Pepsi each got just over and just under a third of all engagement in the sector, although they only have a 9 and 15 percent share of total "likes" in the category.

The point? Although a brand can clearly punch above its "like" weighting, a huge following does not equate to huge engagement when Facebook's algorithm withholds posts from the vast majority of fans.

It was a point made by Eat 24 in a humorous blog breakup letter with Facebook. In a lighthearted tone, the food company basically gave up trying to figure out Facebook's algorithm and deciding to stick with Twitter and Instagram instead.

Forbes and The Wall Street Journal have constantly questioned brands' love for Facebook, and now it would appear that some are most definitely trying out alternatives.

Yet Facebook continues to grow -- and according to Matthew Burns, co-founder of eBench, this is generally a result of brands that have not built a following elsewhere and from emerging markets where Facebook is often the only game in town.

So when given the choice of alternatives, and if a large following can be built on those alternatives, brands are actively exploring organic reach there.

While this is almost certainly true, it isn't representative of the whole, wider picture.

I'm not a fan of Facebook's algorithm tweaks, but when you look at it clinically, it's a master stroke for the money men at the social media giant.

The experiments just mentioned -- of people getting great engagement on other platforms -- are almost certainly all about organic. Do we really think Facebook is in the slightest bit worried that other sites are giving away a larger free lunch?

Surely not when Facebook is still getting away with giving away a free starter and then charging for a decent main, and a pudding too with those who have the budget.

Here's the thing. Forget the social aspect of the site -- that's the entree. Facebook has switched tactics to set itself up as an advertising destination. It really is that simple.

I can lament about what's happened to a brand's following -- but the money men at the site, I rather suspect, are more than happy to cut back on the freebie element as long as the advertising dollars are still there. Judging by the continued healthy figures from Facebook, they are.

Engagement figures on other sites will almost certainly not register concern at Facebook because it is almost certainly happy to see rivals give away as much reach as possible -- as long as brands keep paying to promote to a wider audience on its own social network.

Facebook isn't counting free lunches, it's counting income.

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