Commentary

Facebook Has Moved On, Time The Moaners Did Too

Facebook isn't today what it was a few years ago. As far as digital marketing goes, that is just a fact of life. I've had my fair share of moans about the dialling down of organic reach -- but suffice it to say that Facebook isn't going to change anytime soon. It's an advertising channel complete with a user base and associated data that is wider, yet deeper and more granular than any other provider.

So it's interesting to see, this morning, the debate over whether Facebook is letting advertisers down has been resurrected once again. On the one side we have the London School of Marketing saying that Facebook has left marketers disappointed, and on the other we have Dentsu Aegis' global digital director saying this is nonsense. People are looking back too fondly on the days of better organic reach and are ignoring the opportunities offered by its advertising options.

The original report, if anything, probably delved a little too deeply in to the technology behind these offerings for the lay observer, and so most definitely didn't overlook the advertising options. What it does highlight, however, is that marketers still feel let down by being sold a channel that was going to offer wide reach for free, or at least the cost of hiring a social "ninja." For this reach to be dialled down has been disappointing.

We are probably all looking back at the old days in so many things, and think that things were so much better "back then" -- and Facebook organic reach has fallen into this trap. Sure, Facebook has taken something away from brands for its own enrichment. What marketers felt they could get for free just a year or two ago they now need to pay for. That's a fact. But then again, just think how much more cluttered newsfeeds would be if there were no priority system for brands in place. Imagine how much more clickbait would be waiting to infuriate users. It's not what most digital marketers may want to hear, but by making access to newsfeeds a commercial decision, based on budgets rather than the promises of "social ninjas," at least newsfeeds are not awash with endless offers and pitches from brands people can't quite remember following. 

At some stage we all have to take a lesson from Elsa in Frozen and "Let it go." Facebook has moved on. Like any startup, it got together as many people as it could, offered advertisers a semi-free ride before cashing in with a new era of a free olives, but the rest of lunch is most certainly going to be paid for. 

They are simply doing what Google did with search. Those who are long enough in the tooth to remember the early days of PPC will recall the horror felt by many that Google was selling out and letting down brands that had all hired SEO executives to boost their positions, only to realise they could get to the very top of the page by spending budget. Today, nobody even questions the split. It's a fact of life. You carry on with SEO, but when required, you run PPC campaigns too.

The Facebook change gives brands a decision to make. If this new arrangement doesn't work out, then it's probably time to just cut back to the occasional post you hope will get shared but, ultimately, look around to see if you can put budget elsewhere. 

However, if Facebook isn't a channel that can provide sufficiently accurate targetting, then it would be hard to think of an alternative that would. Which other channel has access to billions of data sets about people all over the world, complete with their age, location and likes. 

When I have spoken to brands, there have been two camps. Neither is completely right or wrong, but some have said we are going to put money into another channel (Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram are frequently mentioned, sometimes Twitter) or those who accept the new norm and start marvelling at the detail they can go in to with Facebook. 

Whichever works for you is fine -- but probably the worst course of action, like most of things in life, is to stand still and moan. Romanticising about the reach you thought you used to get, or perhaps did, is something brands will have to get over and make their choice to see Facebook as an advertising channel or put budget elsewhere. 

3 comments about "Facebook Has Moved On, Time The Moaners Did Too".
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  1. Kevin Lee from Didit, April 13, 2015 at 1:47 p.m.

    Not sure that the bait and switch was the same as Google's.  Facebook positioned the "like" or fan as a social CRM touchpoint. CRM touchpoints may have a measurable CPM (the cost of sending emails to your list), but marketers assumed that a like was forever.
    Interestingly Facebook and other platforms offering custom audiences have increased the interest in email address collection.  It's the new cookie and its semi-permenent. 

  2. Harry Hawk from Bread Depo, Inc, April 13, 2015 at 1:49 p.m.

    I spoke with Dennis Yu of BlitzMetrics on this topic for the FIR Podcast network.. 
    http://traffic.libsyn.com/fir/fir-dennisyu.mp3 

  3. Rick Lavoie from RUCKUS, April 13, 2015 at 8:35 p.m.

    Sean,

    Good article and I'm glad you're addressing this. However, you're missing the most fundemental point of the organic "camp". The core and essence of Facebook and all social media is/was suppose to be a two way dialog channel that organic reach delivers. I understand Facebook needing to become an advertising channel to make money. But it is no longer a 21st century social channel. It's become a 20th century traditional channel. Having it be a platform which almost solely lives on the embedding of ads into a social netowork MAKES ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE WHATSOEVER!

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