Despite a Massive Audience, Facebook Marketing Isn’t Making Many Friends

Facebook, marketingWith more than a billion users, you might think Facebook would be the perfect place to focus your marketing efforts.

According to Nate Elliott, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, that “perfect” place could use a whole lot of improvement. In a recent blog post titled “An open letter to Mark Zuckerberg,” Elliott slammed the world’s largest social network for not delivering much marketing value for brands hoping to connect with consumers.

Marketers spend lots of money on Facebook today [but] relatively few find success, wrote Elliott. Executives told us that Facebook creates less business value than any other digital marketing opportunity.

Less than Twitter, less than blogs, less than email, search and consumer ratings and reviews. Ouch!

Facebook, Forrester, digital marketing

So, why are marketers less satisfied with Facebook than with any other digital tool? Elliott suggests two reasons:

  • Poor engagement: It’s easy enough for a user to “like” a company but doing so is a poor indicator of ongoing interest. Worse yet, it’s estimated that only 16% of a brand’s fans actually see that brand’s post in their newsfeed, meaning 5 out of 6 may not see them at all.
  • Facebook’s increasing emphasis on advertising isn’t paying off for advertisers. Too many ads — tens of billions of display ads a day, estimates Elliott — and not enough targeting toward the most relevant audiences means too many of them are missing the mark.

Clearly, Elliott’s “letter” isn’t going to make him any friends in Menlo Park but it’s also safe to say that marketers aren’t going to suddenly start fleeing Facebook en masse. Perhaps the more important takeaway is to consider Elliott’s letter a wake-up call to think about how you use the site.

Yes, Facebook has more than a billion users. But those users go on the site to be social — to chat with friends, to catch up with family members and, sometimes, to find out more about businesses they’re considering patronizing. They don’t go there to be sold to and they definitely don’t appreciate being interrupted by advertising.

Companies that get that — by focusing on others’ needs and interests, by providing useful, non-promotional information and by demonstrating a personal, rather, than corporate presence — are likely to find that the value in the site lies in the potential for increased awareness, not generating new business. Those that don’t get it and continue to hit users over the head with sales pitches will likely be as disappointed as the executives in Elliott’s survey.

The bottom line is that consumers expect brands to be on social media if they have questions or problems but there is a fine line between being there when I need you and allowing you to intrude on my social life, says marketing consultant Richard Meyer. Sure, people use Facebook but they want to connect with friends and family, not learn about new pasta sauces.

Substitute “plastic surgery” for “pasta sauce” and you can determine how to avoid being anti-social on the world’s largest social stage.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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