It’s been a decade since the launch of Facebook, and during that time more than 1 billion users have joined, offering companies a direct conduit into the most intimate aspects of people’s lives. But has the social networking site proven itself as a successful marketing tool? According to Forrester’s Nate Elliott, the answer is an emphatic NO.
In a blog post published this week, Elliott argued that Facebook has let marketers down, and called on brands to focus their social media efforts elsewhere.
“Is there any doubt now that Facebook has abandoned social marketing, and that its paid ad products aren’t delivering results for most marketers?” he asked, rhetorically.
As evidence, Elliott cites the low success rate of message delivery, pointing to data that shows brand messages are reaching an average of 2% to 6% of a company’s fans. He also laments the difficulty of authenticating end users, many who are suspected by brands of being fake.
“Every day I talk to brands that are disillusioned with Facebook and are now placing their bets on other social sites — but few of them want to go on the record,” he wrote. “Lately, though, more brands and agencies have started speaking openly to the media about how Facebook is failing them.”
The assessment couldn’t come at a less opportune time for Facebook, which has been increasing its efforts to attract marketers. Earlier this year the company announced an update to its Ads API program designed to make it easier for marketers to deliver targeted messages, and expanded its targeting features to include employer and job title to attack LinkedIn’s supremacy in the business-to-business space.
More recently, the company said it will offer video ads by April and it has expanded its agency development and relationship teams, with its Client Council gaining members from Omnicom, Starcom MediaVest Group and Havas Media.
Last week TechCrunch reported that Facebook is working on a new tool called “Business Manager” that lets users manage multiple ad campaigns and pages in one interface.
If Elliott is right, and Facebook has failed as a marketing tool, they must have missed the memo.
But not everyone is convinced that it’s time for marketers to abandon Facebook. Chris Buckley, director of digital engagement at TMW, says news of Facebook’s demise may be greatly exaggerated, but the company still has a lot to prove. Writing this week for the British publication Marketing magazine, Buckley says Facebook has the tools and opportunity to entice brands to “break through the digital ceiling.” But it will take a convincing product to eke more digital spending out of limited marketing budgets.
“Facebook has made it to the big league, so it had better do something to make things right,” he writes, adding that Facebook “has the key to the door that could unlock TV’s stranglehold on media budgets, SEO’s dominance of digital spend, as well as senior marketers’ fear of digital.”
That’s a tall order, indeed. But Facebook seems ready to take on the challenge. The only question left is if it will have the ability to win over skeptics, like Nate Elliott, and, more importantly, the executives deciding the breakdown of next quarter’s marketing spend.
What do you think? Is the updated Ads API program and additional targeting features proving to be enough to spend on Facebook? Would love to hear your responses @Annalect. #MarketingBudget