Should you pull all of your advertising dollars out of Facebook?
On the eve of Facebook's historical initial public offering, automotive manufacturer, GM, made a big public stink about pulling ten million dollars of media spend out of Facebook because they felt that Facebook advertising doesn't work (more on that here: Advertising Age - GM Cuts Facebook Ad Spending, But Ford Steps on the Gas). The subtext to this move is not about one brand leaving Facebook advertising, but a sentiment that Facebook advertising doesn't work.
It's all very silly, isn't it?
This morning at the Canadian Marketing Association's Annual Summit 2012, Jordan Banks (head of Facebook in Canada) started off his presentation by saying that Facebook has accomplished only one percent of what it has set out to do, and that because of its massive user base close (900 million connected consumers strong), it will do some things right and some things wrong moving forward. His point being, that advertising on Facebook works when done in tandem with other activities, and even the advertising platform as we currently see it to date could very well morph, change and adapt.
Media is just media.
I don't know the innards of GM and their media planning or strategy, but this decision does require some context. While Facebook loves to trot out the nine hundred million users, it's important to note that the average user only has about one hundred and twenty connections. So, while Facebook cumulatively is massive, it's really millions of very little connections that are primarily there to share personal and social information. Is that type of user ready to engage with a small little banner box in the same fashion that they would on a news site or a blog page? It's doubtful. The role of the advertiser is to make that little box of advertising as compelling to the user as the social content that they're really there for. In short: that's a tall and hard order to deliver.
Where else to put your money.
If GM realized that they are severely under-indexed on search engines or that they have a massive opportunity with email marketing, and that those strategies are both proven and can earn them more with an acquisition model than Facebook advertising, than this news announcement was nothing more than some kind of political press release to question Facebook's viability. If GM has the perfect media mix and they're struggling to find advertising return on investment with their Facebook ads, it would be interesting to know how often they tested, iterated and played with the format before deciding that it was simply not an effective ad platform them.
Facebook is not (just) an advertising platform.
If the media game is to simply blast a message in front of someone who is on their Facebook page, all is lost. There are probably much better places to advertise. If the game is to create a better marketing story and to leverage the power of Facebook (human beings who have self-identified themselves and are connecting in a sincere way with people they either know or want to know better), then the opportunity is not only massive, but it is still very nascent.
Your Facebook marketing is probably at 1%.
If Facebook feels like they've only accomplished one percent of their goal in helping the world to connect, rest assured: your marketing is at about the same percentage level. What does this mean? It is still early days. Facebook is about to get a major cash injection, and while they say that it's business as usual, we'll see if being public changes their need to adopt faster and more efficiently to a mobile world, and one where the public will demand cash profitability driven by our collective investments in the company. The most exciting brands on Facebook are doing much more than advertising. They are marketing in the channel and leveraging the social graph to connect outside. They're driving content, contests, apps, connectivity and more within Facebook's walled garden and pushing consumers over to microsites, websites and other media channels. These brands are connecting through valuable content that people will not only care about, but share within their own, personal, networks... and that's a powerful place to be. If a brand thinks that Facebook is just about advertising, they are (without question) not understanding Facebook (and the potential of it). At all. And, these same brands are completely missing the point. If all they want is a page to splatter an ad across and those Facebook pages don't do the trick, then by all means, they're making the strategic decision to not advertise on Facebook.
Ask yourself this: is your brand looking for a place to advertise or a place to connect, share and grow?