Facebook Moves The Goalposts Yet Again For Marketers
In a 2,237 word blog post, published on Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg laid out a new vision for Facebook, entitled ‘A Privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking’.
For marketers, this is a MUST READ, with immediate take-aways impacting how organisations communicate today.
The post also provides an indication of how marketing and communications plans need to evolve, within the Facebook ecosystem, through 2019 and beyond.
Facebook’s latest pivot complements and builds upon its 2018 changes. Which, unfortunately for Facebook, most businesses have yet to begin getting their heads around.
At SMK we run face-to-face training for roughly 1500 marketing and comms professionals each year. From the ASX 100 to government, brands, agencies and beyond, and many organisations’ Facebook plans are already under-performing.
Subject to the speed which these changes roll out, many marketing comms professionals will likely see already weak Facebook performance deteriorate further as the platform reorientates.
Messaging, Stories and Groups Are Facebook's Future, says Big Bossman
So what’s behind this new change of direction?
Given its penchant for smear campaigns against detractors, probably not.
Facebook is on the wrong side of a number of macro web, societal and political trends. Its proactive, very public, strategy pivot moves to head these challenges off, which is to be applauded.
Disruption comes to all businesses eventually, however not all handle in such pragmatic fashion.
For example, observing local retailers and media companies reacting to web disruption over the past decade has been reminiscent of the steamroller scene from Austin Powers.
The public, ‘town hall’, style nature of social media is fast drawing to a close, with users becoming less open to sharing their wares for the world to see.
Unless, of course, if you play in the NRL, it would seem.
According to Zuckerberg:
Today we already see that private messaging, ephemeral stories, and small groups are by far the fastest growing areas of online communication. There are a number of reasons for this. Many people prefer the intimacy of communicating one-on-one or with just a few friends. People are more cautious of having a permanent record of what they've shared. And we all expect to be able to do things like payments privately and securely.
The Problem With Stories, Messaging & Groups For Marketing
Some of the changes announced last week have been in the pipeline for a while.
While building out these new features, and more, could be suitable for users it will create problems for Facebook on the business side of things.
Facebook is planning to hitch its revenue wagon to features which it doesn't monetise well at the moment, or which currently convert badly for many marketers:
- Messenger marketing solutions have been available for around 2.5 years, give or take, but uptake is poor
- Messenger Home ads are a lemon, currently, since users do not scroll through feeds and performance is weak compared to other placements
- Click-to-messenger ads could be good, but often end up spammy, as advertisers tie them in with annoying bots
- Advertisers are terrified of sending Sponsored Messages, since most people who engage with them in Messenger hate them and are complaining. Hence they’re not stoked to re-engage
- Outside of decent bots like ABC News or Qantas, most Messenger subscriptions are spam central. Hence Facebook’s tightening here at the end of 2018.
- Stories Ads can work well. However most advertisers are not using, or if they are it is simply an extension of feed ads or creative, which does badly
- As for Groups, most marketers would rather have root-canal surgery than have to invest in community management again. Either creating Groups or joining existing Groups and pretending to give a damn about what whinging customers think. Let's not pretend you feel otherwise 😉
- At the moment there are no Group ads available, but inevitably these will roll out at some point and will take a while to catch on – as new features always do
Zuck’s latest post suggests that Facebook has returned to its ‘move fast and break things’ mantra, of old.
While this rapid-fire iterative approach works well for product development and can help Facebook hopefully arrest the decling usage issues it is experiencing, it creates a massive headache for marketers which bankroll the platform.