Facebook is the world’s largest social network, unprecedented in size by any other. That’s great if you’re selling a popular consumer product like soda or sneakers, but what about the rest of us ? The biggest selling point for Facebook is that it can use algorithms to target the right consumers because at the end of the day Facebook is a massive consumer database. We freely give away data about ourselves, our interests, our location, our age, our gender, the TV shows we watch, movies we’ve seen recently, places we’ve visited, etc. It’s a marketer’s paradise. This article is intended to give you a look from the other end : Facebook’s marketing team.
Search engines offer advertisers a direct link to consumers seeking out their product. It’s pretty straight forward: consumer types in bright orange sun dress, you sell bright orange sun dresses, perfect match, you’re right in front of your intended target. Then there’s the old reliable : TV. TV remains the dominant way to reach a mass audience. Facebook’s ad team claims their platform offers advertisers the best of both worlds. Facebook has the audience (1.3 billion users) and advertisers can reach the right audience AND can measure the impact of their ads while conveying their message to the masses (like TV). The reasoning behind Facebook’s attempt to resemble TV is obvious if you look at the money spent on each medium. Facebook reported $1.5 billion in profit in 2013, advertisers spend $200 billion annually on TV ads.
Facebook offers something unique, amazing scale and the opportunity for personal engagement. Ever noticed that giant brands like Wal-Mart and tiny brands like that yoga studio down the street both advertise on Facebook? It’s because their targets are on the platform. In June 2014 1 in every 6 minutes spent online was on Facebook (comScore).
One aspect of Facebook that has marketing executives confused is how often they change the way they market themselves. Two years ago it was all about increasing the “Likes” on your brand’s page to attract more attention. Now the number of fans you have is basically meaningless, just for bragging rights. Then there was the “10 of your friends like this” strategy, which resulted in a lawsuit, now that’s gone. Now Facebook is going with the mobile strategy of pinpointing consumers where they are likely to buy and video advertisements (big with Hollywood).
Another area where Facebook and digital marketing in general excels, is intimidate feedback. Within ten minutes you know if your ad is effective or not, and you can tailor it on the fly. People aren’t clicking, no new “Likes” ? Alright, go with Plan B. You can’t do that with TV.
Modern data collections (like Facebook’s) mean it’s easier to locate consumers based on what they already purchase. This isn’t new. It’s essentially the same thing as online shopping carts and the scanners used at retail locations. Marketers build a profile of a consumer based on their purchase history. Facebook uses an auction system where advertisers compete for slots in user’s news feeds and the more targeted they are, the higher the cost to reach 1,000 targets. When you understand this philosophy it’s easy to see how the rich get richer (Taco Bell, Coca Cola). Coca Cola doesn’t have to put in a high bid to reach their target audience (people who drink soda) because it’s such a wide net.
Facebook can be an effective medium for just about any brand. However, there are so many options, so many variables, that it can be confusing. For some, it might not be worth it. Facebook marketing won’t go away any time soon though, because every brand’s target audience is using the platform, a lot. There’s no getting around the fact that in order to really be effective and drive ROI, you need to understand the platform.