Earlier this week, Forrester issued an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that dissed the social network for “failing” marketers. According to its research, Facebook came in dead last in terms of how satisfied marketers are with it and other marketing channels.
Like many people in the B2B space, I’ve struggled with Facebook. This struggle, I finally realized, is due in part to my not understanding what Facebook really is: an advertising platform.
Facebook started in 2004 as an online “view book” of sorts for college students. In 2006, it opened up to anyone with an email address.
Part of Facebook’s appeal is that we get a really in-depth view of people’s personal lives; it satisfies our voyeuristic tendencies. (It’s why Facebook is so addictive.)
In the old days, if I wanted to relay news, I’d call a friend to say, “Oh, wow! Last night James [my son] and I went to a Green Day concert and the drummer gave James his drumsticks!” — and then I’d proceed to tell the story.
My friend’s imagination then created the visual as we talked.
(It’s true: we did attend a concert earlier in the year and one of the band’s stagehands came up to us and handed James Tre’s drumsticks. We both were bowled over. WOW! So cool.)
Now, I can post this as a “status update” to Facebook, complete with a photo — along with the photos “pre-concert” of the tickets or dinner or what-have-you. You, as the viewer, get a totally different perspective of me, my son, and our lives. Maybe you’re a Green Day fan too, in which case, we may strike up a conversation and become better friends over the long term.
Facebook’s baked-in DNA is this “social sharing” aspect. It is pretty cool. I’ll be the first to admit it.
But, that’s not what Facebook is all about.
Facebook is really a corporation out to make a huge profit for shareholders.
Instead of being a social media platform where we can all chat with each other “for free,” Facebook is an ad exchange. Over 1 billion ad impressions flow through it — every single day. These impressions account for almost 28% of all U.S. digital display impressions.
And that’s why small businesses struggle with making Facebook “work.” They’re approaching it from a “let’s engage with our customers” (for free!) perspective when Facebook is really an ad platform. This is why only a very small percentage of your followers ever see your posts — because Facebook suppresses them in the hopes that you’ll give up and just advertise.
According to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, only 1 million owners of the 20 million small business pages advertise on the platform. (Source: MarketingLand)
In his AdExchanger article, “Facebook vs. Marketers: Who’s Failing Whom?” David Serfaty talks about the benefits of advertising on Facebook. For big brands, advertising is about building brand and “affinity.” But as Serfaty points out, they’re missing the point.
Advertising on Facebook allows you to combine the platform’s dual role: You can advertise, yes, but you can create ads (aka Sponsored Posts) that allow people to engage with your brand — e.g. download a white paper, report, or e-book, watch a video, etc.
And in the process, they can leave you a comment, ask a question or share that post with their networks.
Hence: advertising and social combined to deliver true ROI.
What do you think? Is Facebook a good platform for small B2B companies? Have you advertised on Facebook? What has been your ROI? If you have a good story that will help others, I’d love to publish it here on my blog.