On October 28, 2013, Forrester analyst Nate Elliott wrote, “Facebook is failing marketers.” The open letter, addressed to Mark Zuckerberg, lamented brands’ paltry organic reach across the platform and Facebook’s subpar advertising offerings.
That was nearly a year and a half ago.
Since then, Facebook has made marked improvements to its News Feed, which users visit to discover events, happenings and stories that matter to them. It weeded out click-bait, enabled better advertising, added emphasis to trending stories and ‘like’ signals, and, more recently, minimized hoaxes and scams. While you may still hear crafty and sly marketers complaining, users are winning. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, brands benefit from this scenario too.
The Facebook advantage.
As Facebook evolves, it enhances the user experience and worries little about what businesses think. Yet despite their groans, marketers are spending more on Facebook than ever. In its latest earnings report, the company boasted an active monthly user base of 1.39 billion people and $12.47 billion in revenue for 2014. Advertising, especially on mobile, played a big part in its strong financial performance.
With vaults filled with proprietary social data, Facebook arguably knows you better than your family and friends do. Armed with so much information, the platform supports marketers by offering highly targeted audiences at scale. At a time when mobile ROI is hard to measure and often less profitable than advertising to desktop users, Facebook has taken a mobile-first approach and successfully encouraged marketers to do the same.
Furthermore, Facebook has gone to great lengths to exclude overly promotional and irrelevant brand posts from appearing on your News Feed. The result is a sharp decline in organic reach for brands but an increased focus on quality content. Content with substance now spreads like wildfire instead of posts from company pages users mistakenly "liked" ages ago. In fact, a report by content-marketing platform Shareaholic showed Facebook referrals increased 277 percent in the past three years. Facebook now drives one-quarter of the visits websites receive. Some businesses that get loads of Facebook traffic are not even good at social media marketing. Instead, they are simply good publishers, who know how to create shareworthy content.
Raising marketing’s standards.
Three days after Nate Elliott’s blog post, new media expert Joseph Jaffe boldly responded, “Facebook isn’t failing marketers – marketers are failing marketers.” By stripping brands of their organic reach and favoring quality content, Facebook inadvertently raised the standard of social media marketing. Companies cab no longer force their message onto users. They have to earn that privilege every single time.
Log into Facebook now and see status updates you may actually enjoy. Any brand posts you come across, both organic and sponsored, are highly likely to pique your interest, too. Ads have come to enhance, rather than detract from, the user experience.
The popular social network’s contributions have a lasting impact on the way consumers interact with companies, and vice versa. Its survival and success despite criticism has proven time and time again that Facebook has significant staying power.
In order for brands and marketers to win on Facebook, they need to develop truly exceptional content. Only then can they earn the right to appear in users’ News Feeds and garner trust before converting that audience into customers.