The Un-Marketing of Facebook

The greatest water cooler of all time doesn’t feel the same anymore.

The water tastes a little warm. The people a little grouchy. The location is full of office advertisements and the boss is eerily lurking around the corner.

Just what am I talking about? If you haven’t noticed Facebook has changed a lot in the past 6 months.

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From a user perspective, you now have a lot of neat stuff. A very slick mobile app for iPhones, iPads and Kindles. This mobile app puts all your Facebook  friends in the palm of your hand. Giving you fast updates, live messaging and countless options for your photos.

From a brand perspective (and when I say brand I mean – if you are a company on Facebook, example Whole Foods) you now have some fantastic new tools like a mobile manager mobile app, robust analytics on your brand page and new ways to promote your fan page (along with page posts) to Facebook users.

With all the good new things there’s has also been some other maybe not so good things that have taken place on Facebook.

If you are a Facebook user you probably have noticed the rise in advertising. Take a look on your mobile app, there should be a post by your best friend followed by brand (or company) post and them 3 pages to Like (by different companies). I don’t want to poke too much fun of them but one of those pages to Like is probably Samsung Mobile. I’ll give you a few moment to check this out.

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 So does the water cooler look a little different? 

If you are a Brand (or company) you probably have noticed that you fantastic Brand Page isn’t getting the same amount of weekly Likes as it use to. Each Brand Page varies but 10-15 likes per week has sank to 3-4 per week. Also if the content on your Brand Page hasn’t been the greatest you probably will also nice that the amount of people interacting and talking about your page has dropped. I’ll give you a few moments to look this over but if you want, just go to the fancy ‘insights’ section of you Brand Page.

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So does the water taste a little funny?

Most of these changes were ushered in when Facebook went public not so long ago. Wall Street pushed Facebook for mobile growth along with revenue growth and Facebook delivered. At present I haven’t heard too many Facebook users complain about the changes but I have seen many articles and even a commissioned report (by Group M and Ad Age). If you are a Brand, social media manager or even an agency I highly suggest that you read the report. It’s going to talk about Edgerank and how it plays a huge role in the Brand Page content that a Facebook user sees. There’s also been a lot of debate about what these changes mean for Brands on Facebook. Some have said that Facebook isn’t the place for brand growth anymore others have said that marketing services and products on Facebook is pointless. Even Mark Cuban in his recent blog post has stated  

I am recommending that we de-emphasize pushing consumers or partners to like us on FB and focus on building up our followings across all existing social media platforms and to evaluate those that we feel can grow a material following. In the past we put FB first, twitter second. FB has been moved to the bottom of a longer list.

I for one – believe that many of these debates are good arguments for Brands on Facebook. The new norm on Facebook for a Brand is… If you don’t spend on marketing then you risk no one seeing your content or you Brand Page.

So… Are we witnessing an Un-Marketing of Facebook?

Will Brands pull away? 

I believe that the real debate isn’t involving Brands but all three Facebook groups:

- the Facebook user

- the brand (company)

- the Facebook ecosystem

I point to these three groups because whenever you change something even in the slightest the repercussions are felt by everyone involved. Some are felt right away and some over a period of time. Right now Brands are feeling the immediate impact on their pocketbooks for advertising dollars and on their brand impact with messaging. But, if you take a closer look the real impact on Brands is small.

Facebook advertising cost is still tiny compared to advertising dollars spent on Google Adwords and other forms of digital media spend.

If anything this will force Brands to focus more on customer engagement, content of posts and communication times during the day. For Brands, the true impact of these changes will be to treat Likes with value. Honestly, any Brand that gives up entirely on Facebook will feel the brunt of 20,000 or so fans echoing bad sentiments. I do agree with Mark Cuban and many who say building Likes on Facebook may be over. With these new changes Facebook has dictated a price per Like so if a Brand feels that they need to reach a certain audience then why wouldn’t a Brand pay for more Likes. But the period of accumulating Likes for the reason of getting more Likes could be over.

For the Facebook user – I see an adapt or leave process ahead. The best part about Facebook was that it was void of marketing. Now it’s a billboard. It would be interesting to see some statistics on where new Facebook users are coming from, my first guess would be mobile.  If mobile continues to grow it will be interesting to see the impact of change on these new Facebook mobile users. If there’s other social networks that are less obtrucive when it comes to advertising then you might see a migration of these mobile users to another social media channel. In general user either adapt or change, if there’s a significant change or migration of these users then you might see Facebook respond.

For the Facebook ecosystem – small changes have worked. It’s not a secret that one of the reasons why Facebook has maintained the grip on Brands and Users is because the ecosystem works. Brands are willing to make investments in:

  • time spent creating engaging posts
  • time spent creating engaging contests and promotions
  • small dollar amount in advertising

User are willing to stick around:

  • with small amounts of brand messages 
  • taking advantage of Brand contests and promotions
  • enjoying content from friends and family

If this Facebook ecosystem changes – any of the above bullet points could change.

What do you think? Are you a Brand on Facebook or a User? Have you noticed the changes?

 

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