Facebook Marketing Facts

Have you ever really considered the metrics of Facebook marketing?  If you do some research, then apply some critical thinking, you’ll come up with some truths that I think might surprise you.  Well, it really surprised me when I first started to realize them.

I think about things like this because I spend a lot of time trying to convince my clients to do videos, create a YouTube channel, and gain a small following of people who truly enjoy their video content.  Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much.  And that’s okay, some people just aren’t comfortable in front of a camera.  But some of my clients have done a few videos, and they aren’t getting immediate traction on YouTube, so they want to put them on Facebook instead.  And that’s great!  Some views is better than no views… but in terms of longevity, value, and building a subscriber base, YouTube is the way to go.  Facebook marketing is fine…but I want my clients and my blog readers to realize is that Facebook isn’t the social media messiah that we’ve all been led to believe it is.

Just think about ALL your friends on Facebook.  By far, the majority of people who have a Facebook account publish content regularly.  Do you see all of the content that all of your friends post?  Seems like there’s a lot of people that you never see on your news feed at all, right?  Why is that?

The reason is that Facebook uses its own analytics to “predict” what it thinks you want to see.  I don’t know about you guys, but for me, it’s usually wrong.  No offense, but I don’t want to play Farmville, and the 3rd birthday party of a past co-worker’s child is not really interesting to me either.  Why do I see stuff like this, instead of things that actually appeal to me?  In short, it’s because I’m not an active ‘liker’ or ‘commenter’.  By not interacting with the posts that I DO like, I’m inadvertently telling Facebook that I don’t like anything, which leads them to only display content that OTHERS have ‘engaged’ with, in hopes that I will like it too.

See, Facebook’s predictive analytics assumes that the content that gets ‘engagement’ (meaning likes, comments and shares) is more likely to be ‘engaging’ to you too.  That means that the opposite is also true: when you post something to your Facebook wall, it is only shown to a select number of your friends and/or followers, and if it gets no ‘engagement’ then Facebook doesn’t bother showing it to anyone else.  Nice, huh?  Thanks Facebook!

Essentially, my Facebook newsfeed will either continue to be filled with things I don’t care about, or I will have to start ‘liking’ things that I actually want to continue to see… which means that if I see something on my newsfeed that I technically dislike, but I want to continue seeing, like bad news from a friend or an opposing political viewpoint, I have to take the time to comment on it, otherwise my ‘like’ is either rude or disingenuous.  Ugh, what a cluster.

All of this means that, sometimes, you have to actually PAY to have your content be displayed to people who actually REQUESTED to see your content.  That’s crazy!  Someone can ‘like’ my business page, but never see anything that I post because of Facebook’s analytics.  But it’s making Facebook a lot of money… so I’m betting that they’re not going to change this anytime soon.  But it’s slowly driving people like me away from the use of Facebook as a personal social site.

YouTube’s system is completely the opposite.  You have people there who create content, and YouTube actually pays THEM when they get a lot of views and subscriptions!  That’s a novel idea… they give some of their revenue back to the creators of the content that is making their website so damn popular in the first place; good thinking YouTube!

What’s more, is that YouTube doesn’t try to filter or decide what is and isn’t seen by its users.  On YouTube, I’m a subscriber to several channels, and all of their new videos show up in my new video feed as expected.  Nothing is filtered or removed from my subscriptions, nobody is tampering with what I get to see because I didn’t ‘like’ or ‘comment’ at some point.

Why does Facebook do this?  Because it’s really the only way that they can continue to make money off its users.

In terms of growth, Facebook’s expansion into the older generations was still pretty strong last time I checked, but the younger generations have given it up completely.  I did some checking on the Facebook profiles of friends of my 18-year-old brother, and out of about 25 profiles that I checked, less than 5 of them had a post within the last month, unless it was automatically syndicated from Instagram.  The younger generation has traded Facebook for app-based social media like Instagram, Vine, and Snapchat.

What does that mean for Facebook’s growth?  Personally, I think Facebook has plateaued.  It will take a long time (and maybe even the passing of Mark Zuckerberg) for Facebook to go the way of MySpace, but it’s coming.  The number of accounts may continue to grow (click farms, I suspect), but the amount of time that active users spend on Facebook daily has reduced substantially (possibly because of issues like the ones I point out here), and there are more ads now than there ever have been.  Facebook as a company may continue to develop and prosper (as it buys up great startups like Oculus and ProtoGeo) but I’d really be surprised if Facebook the social media website has another 5 years left.

On the flip side, YouTube still has room for a TON of growth.  It is literally poised to take over television viewership in the future, alongside companies like Netflix and Hulu.  The numbers of people who are ditching cable and satellite providers in favor of streaming internet television are growing, and with articles like this one in the Wall Street Journal, the numbers will only continue to grow.

From a business perspective, Facebook marketing has a number of positive things going for it, and if it would start capitalizing on those things, they might be able to turn their system around.  For example, it has the highest number of users compared to any other social media network.  No other social media site even comes close to it in terms of sheer mass.  Also, its new video viewer app is great; I have actually enjoyed it a lot as the videos pre-load and begin playing without sound, so you can truly determine in just a few seconds whether or not you want to continue watching, or even click for sound.  Lastly, but not at the bottom of the list for me, is the marketing potential.  As a marketer, some of my best client ROIs come from Facebook ads.  They have their demographics whittled down to such narrow and easy-to-browse population sections; it truly baffles me.  I love it!  I just wish they would let me use ads to reach people who DON’T like my page, instead of having to use ads to reach people who already opted in to get my content on their newsfeed.

I truly believe that if Facebook fixed the things that are ‘broken’ with its site and made a great effort to get rid of the click farms (which I know for a FACT generate false clicks on my ads, therefore giving Facebook false revenue), their site would continue to grow in revenue, even if there’s no more growth to be had population-wise.  But if they continue to monitor only their bottom line and not what their users are doing or feeling, Facebook will eventually become another internet ghost town.

Brittany Gilbert

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