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How marketers lost faith in Facebook

Zach Miners | April 11, 2014
Businesses that advertise on Facebook show signs of growing frustration.

"Organic reach of the content brands publish in Facebook is destined to hit zero," the group predicted. "It's only a matter of time."

This leaves Facebook in a quandary. There's only so many posts it can show to users in a day, and it can't bombard them with marketing messages or they'll feel they're getting spammed. At the same time, it needs to show people the content they want to see, and in many cases that's not posts by marketers.

Brandon McCormick, director of communications at Facebook, said as much in a response to the post from Eat24.

"There is some serious stuff happening in the world and one of my best friends just had a baby and another one just took the best photo of his homemade cupcakes and what we have come to realize is people care about those things more than sushi porn," he wrote, referring to Eat24's food pictures.

Facebook isn't trying to punish businesses or decrease their visibility, McCormick said in an interview. It's goal is to increase the reach of posts that users have shown they like, by sharing or commenting on an item.

But he acknowledged that the reach of posts by businesses, unless they're paying to promote them, is declining. Marketers on the site can try to increase their visibility by creating more engaging content that will generate activity, like posts from people's friends do, he said.

Facebook offers some advanced tools, he noted, that marketers can use to target ads more effectively. Power Editor, for instance, let's advertisers try out dozens of variations on the same ad, and upload a database of customer contacts for better ad targeting.

Some of those tools appear more suited to larger businesses, however, and it's not clear they'll help to ease the frustration some marketers are feeling.

Some are already spending some of their marketing dollars elsewhere. Jake's Coffee and Espresso has started paying $35 a month to use Perka, a mobile loyalty platform, which sends messages to customers each morning.

Photographer Josh Reiss is looking at alternative ways to reach people. "I'm exploring more ways to connect with customers directly," he said.

"Brands are not going to abandon Facebook, but they will focus a larger portion of their marketing efforts elsewhere, for both organic and paid content," said Nate Elliott, a Forrester analyst who helps companies develop digital marketing strategies.

Part of the issue is that, much like Google with its search engine, marketers can't see inside Facebook's algorithms. They can adapt their content to try to get greater visibility, but ultimately they're subject to the whims of what Facebook decides. And when those decisions result in poor visibility for their brands, they're likely to feel they've been cheated.

"Marketers feel tricked," Elliott said.

 

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