You may have seen the Forrester Research report regarding Facebook marketing that’s making the rounds, or at least have read articles referencing it. The report’s conclusions are pretty extreme, with author Nate Elliott claiming that “Facebook has failed marketers” and has killed organic reach, citing Facebook’s announcement of cracking down on overly-promotional posts. According to Elliott, brands are wasting tons of money on Facebook and Twitter. But is this warranted?
Taking a closer look, our short answer is that the research doesn’t seem to support these claims - however, while we don’t think that Facebook has failed marketers in any sense, we do agree that brands as a whole are wasting money on the platform, along with Twitter. How so? Read on, no cognitive dissonance required.
Disagree: Organic Facebook Marketing is Dead
First, looking at the study itself produced some problems. I have to say we’re a little disappointed with Nate and Forrester on this one. According to Doug Shoen on Forbes.com, the sample size is way too small and the comparisons to other marketing platforms are not even statistically significant (the difference between preference for platforms was smaller than the margin of error in the study).
Second, the claim “Facebook has finally killed organic reach” is a pretty blatant overreaction. Facebook is clear that it is limiting only certain types of posts that are deemed overly promotional. From the announcement, these will be limited to:
- Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
- Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
- Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads
Marketers may not like this, but they should at least be okay with it. Facebook needs marketers to turn a profit, but has a responsibility to its users first. If the news feed is clogged with irrelevant promotions, users leave, and that’s bad for Facebook and marketers. As Gary Vaynerchuk says, “Marketers ruin everything.” Zuckerberg is trying not to let that happen.
Agree: Brands are Wasting Money on Facebook and Twitter
Our reasons for agreeing with this actually have nothing to do with the report, but are based on our own observations. Admittedly, this is anecdotal evidence, though still useful if you are running social media promotional campaigns or are considering them.
There are three main reasons we see that cause brands to waste money in this area:
Incompetency: The person in charge or doing the work knows that Facebook and Twitter are involved in marketing, and they’ve sold their employer or client on it. However, they don’t actually know how to execute, and money poured into the campaign goes right down the drain instead of generating any new business.
Outdated strategy: The brand has a once-successful strategy that has been running for a while, and is no longer getting the same results. For whatever reason - lack of review, apathy, inability or unwillingness to adjust - the plan goes untouched and profit dwindles.
Jumping in too fast: Companies jump in with full budget too quickly, using a strategy that worked for someone else. While it's good to start with what has worked, make sure you test and tweak before going full bore. When you put everything in at the get-go, even if you learn and adjust, that's going to be some costly education.
Avoid Wasting Money AND Sensationalist Reports
You can avoid both of these calamities by having a simple process in place, and sticking to it:
Strategize: Look at who your audience is, where they are, and what those various platforms/communities offer. Create a plan and call out the underlying hypotheses.
Test your hypotheses: With a small portion of your budget, confirm your assumptions. Make sure these tests are statistically significant (the behavior of 5 people on your site, for example, doesn’t tell you much overall).
Repeat steps 1 and 2 as needed. When you're assumptions prove correct, move on.
Ramp up: Now that you have a tested strategy, ramp up to full budget
Review: Periodically review your strategy and the platform’s offerings to stay current.
Don’t be fooled by the report, but don’t necessarily stay the course, either. Facebook really is going to crack down on overly promotional posts - are these a part of your current strategy? Then adjust it. You may or may not have to turn off Facebook, but that is something you must find for your own company.