Facebook: not the powerful marketing tool it’s cracked up to be?


"Apple investors call for action over iPhone addiction among children -- Duchess of Cambridge warns teenagers about addictive social media -- I quit social media for 1 month; it was the best choice I ever made -- Digital Marketing Trend Prediction for 2018: Give Up on Facebook"


These are just a few of the recent headlines about social media. Does anyone else sense a growing backlash against the technology?


I’ve noticed on my own channels that many people who regularly posted on Facebook a couple of years ago are now silent.


I haven’t left the platform myself, but have made a conscious decision to limit my time on it and I’ve done this by deleting the app from my phone, along with Twitter and LinkedIn (YouTube stays, though). It’s liberating.


But what does this mean for communications professionals?


Aren’t we not only supposed to be telling our clients that they need to be on social media but also leading by example, i.e. posting several times a day?


Call me a heretic but I think as advocates of the benefits of social media marketing and communications we should also be straight about its limitations - and that means not elevating it to the status of marketing silver bullet (we also ought to think long and hard about any science telling us that it’s harming us, particularly when it relates to our children).


Take Facebook adverts, for example. If we don’t think paid-for ads will help a client to meet an objective of generating sales, then we should be crystal clear about this. And we shouldn’t try to fudge it.


I’ve been managing Facebook campaigns for different businesses and organisations for a number of years and the one thing I’ve learnt is to take nothing for granted.


Facebook adverts can work really well when you’re offering a correctly targeted audience an opportunity to participate in something meaningful, such as an event or piece of research.


It gets harder when you’re trying to sell a product or service, particularly if you require potential customers to submit details.


Social media is awash with lead generation-type ads, whose aim is to gather potential customer data to pass on to the sales team. Self-appointed digital gurus offering 10 ways to marketing strategy success are ten a penny.


From what I’ve seen of these ads, they either tend to be opened by curious competitors, or people provide false details in order to avoid being contacted. I don’t blame anyone for doing this.


It would seem the downloadable white paper strategy is no longer fit for purpose. 


I also think Facebook advertising has some serious limitations when it comes to targeting people by job title in the UK. Many of the options in Facebook’s Power Editor tool appear to be US job titles. This leads me to suspect that many Facebook users in the UK don’t add their job information to their profile, perhaps opting instead to do this in LinkedIn, if they use that platform at all.


Additionally, one of Facebook’s many neat tricks has been to make advertising seem incredibly cheap by offering campaigns for as little as £3 per day. I think this may have stifled creativity. If audience reach is guaranteed, surely there’s less pressure to come up with innovative ideas that engage and grab attention.


So what does all this mean? It’s all a bit disheartening, right? Well, not really. It just means there's a need to think creatively for your clients, in order to develop approaches that get them noticed and open conversations with their prospective clients.


Facebook has its place and many organisations find having a page, powered by organic growth, to be incredibly beneficial. But we should think twice before throwing money at Facebook's advertising function.


Better to take a holistic view of building brand awareness, by which I mean considering a range of approaches from media buying to SEO to face-to-face networking to traditional public relations. Perhaps more so than ever, this needs to be underpinned by solid market insight and sustained focus on a product or service, coupled with patience and self-belief. And above all, be prepared for a slog.


Take this approach and you'll be able to sleep soundly in the knowledge that if social media isn't working for you, it might not be such a big deal. There are other ways to place your organisation or business in front of the right audience.




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