Facebook is maturing

It’s growing out of engagement and going back to its roots:

“People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.”

That’s part of Facebook’s… no… Mark Zuckerberg’s vision statement. 

Facebook is moving from teen to adult stage. This means it’s not just about how long people stay on the platform but how meaningful their time on the platform is.

Facebook primarily cares about you

That’s the ‘user’ version of ‘you’. The person that joined Facebook some time in the last decade, to explore connections with other people, keep in touch with friends, connect with like minded people and explore new opportunities.

Go back to when Facebook first started serving ads. It wasn’t a priority for Mark but a necessity for Facebook – in order to achieve this vision he needed to fund it. 

Ads were introduced, along with the IPO in order to accelerate Facebook’s growth – they’ve delivered the world’s largest and most unifying digital platform, bought fast growth  companies (for example Instagram, WhatsApp, Masquerade) and merged them into the Facebook family, they’re trying to shift us from two dimensional digital social interactions to virtual worlds built on social principles, developing a system to connect more people in the most remote locations to the internet and much much more.

All of these come back to the underlying goal; to create more meaningful connections with each other. With your friends, family and the human race.

Facebook subversion is a risk to humanity

Whoa there, big words right? If the Russian scandal is as true as we’re to believe, then a few hundred thousands dollars in ad spend were enough to swing the US vote – through Facebook Ads. 

$100k or even $200k is not a big sum of money to spend on ads. To swing a nation of over 300 million with $200K – damn, I take my hat off to them. Truth is they must have been working with bigger budgets to have pulled this off but the fact remains that if true, a foreign government gained an upperhand by influencing an election through social media. 

The reality is this – over 2 billion are active on Facebook every single month (based on 2017 figures). There are over 7 billion people on Earth right now.

If you want to influence entire populations where do you go? In the US alone there are between 100-200 million people accessing Facebook each month. That figure is even higher in India which has the largest number of active users on Facebook.

 That’s true power, possibly more than any human or company should be responsible for?

With great power comes great responsibility and Zuckerberg knows this

It was reported that Zuckerberg is looking into blockchain. For those that don’t know what blockchain is, its the core of what makes cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin so good. It decentralises power away from a bank, government or institution and therefore out of the control of higher powers. 

Reflect that back on a platform where nearly 30% of Earth’s population dwell and you kind of realise how this power could be used for evil purposes and why, perhaps even Zuckerberg feels as sense of responsibility to remove himself and Facebook away from core parts of the service.

Facebook want us to stay connected with friends and family…

…to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.

Can you honestly rate that statement with a thumbs up experience based on your newsfeed in the last 12 months? Facebook know exactly how to keep you hooked onto the platform. Those little red notifications on your phone and desktop (DOPAMINE DOPAMINE!), to knowing which content to serve when, Facebook knows so much about you. Millions upon millions of data points on when you access Facebook, when you respond best to different types of content, your interactions with people, pages, ads and groups, which websites you visit outside of Facebook (thanks to the tracking pixel all sites that run ads end up using) and lots of external data from providers such as Axciom and Epsilon which use various data collection methods to add even more insights into ad targeting.

Yet despite all this, are you left feeling satisfied after using Facebook? It goes beyond engagement to positive impact. There’s so much content to consume yet Facebook have recognised that passive, zombifying content is not what leads it towards it’s goal of meaningful social interactions. There’s an image of a post-apocolyptic world with people wedged into their sofa, drip-fed their food and pipes taking away the waste, glued 24/7 to their mobiles watching endless videos whilst the world around them collapses. Ok so we’re some way off anything like the Matrix but just think how much brainpower has been lost across the world with meaningless use of Facebook.

However, the news is not gloom and doom for everyone. Being a business owner that relies on Facebook like many of you, I take this news with a huge amount of optimism.

Place emphasis on Groups

Facebook made many moves in 2017 to focus on and elevate groups. It’s not the big thing of 2018, it already was the big thing of 2017 and if you’re not already thinking about how your brand needs to react to this then now’s is definitely the time. Groups allow Facebook to provide users with virtual walls within which to have focussed meaningful interactions. It’s a way of creating a secondary newsfeed if you like, and a place you can go to mingle with like minded people.

The prominence of groups allow people to form their own tribes and followings, to move out of the reliance on the newsfeed for everything. Where once Pages were a way of creating a place for your fans to gather and show their appreciation, it was generally a monologue.  

Groups allow those same people to instead create a dialogue, which creates a stronger affinity with your tribe and ensures people are kept both engaged and satisfied.

There are rumours that ads will begin to appear inside of groups. Perhaps on the right hand side to begin with but it makes sense to monetise a piece of real estate that probably has far more dwell time and engagement than the newsfeed. What would this mean for your business? 

Facebook is waaaay beyond a direct response channel

Don’t treat Facebook only as a direct response channel, whether running organic or paid campaigns – comparing Adwords directly to Facebook ads, as is common, is not the right approach.

Instead add value, build relationships and go back to marketing principles of taking customers through a funnel from awareness and consideration through to sale or lead. Facebook have a wide range of tools available to make that journey work, including a good offering of campaign objectives (from brand awareness to lead generation through to engagement and conversion), deep analytics tools with their newly updated Facebook Analytics tool, new Events manager to improve tracking and a whole range of targeting and creative options.

Want to find new audiences? Run a video ad to a fairly broad audience and retarget those that view a certain percentage. Want to improve email marketing response rates? Load your list into Facebook and ensure they see your message when you need them to. Facebook is a marketing behemoth and whilst the platform itself should be part of a wider portfolio of marketing channels, it still delivers huge revenues for many companies and will continue to do so in 2018.

Share content as a marketer that you would as a user

If you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing your ads or organic updates with friends in your own newsfeed, it’s probably not good enough for your Page, Group or ads as a business. There will always be loopholes and hacks to gain engagement but, as an example, the crackdown Facebook is taking demotion for engagement baiting completely seriously.

There aren’t many magic formulas to Facebook beyond targeting the right audience and creating content relevant for them. It’s easy to get caught up in the technicalities of bidding and optimisation but at the core of what Facebook are trying to deliver, it pivots around user satisfaction. Creating those meaningful connections for users on the platform should be a big consideration in your creative execution.

Pages are about engagement through community 

How many Pages on Facebook create a monologue with no response or interaction? No amount of paid or unpaid marketing is going to help a page that is disconnected from their fans. Organic reach began dropping around 3 years ago for Pages and the latest update would seem to be a big stake in the heart. But that’s not completely the case since the message from Zuckerberg mentioned bringing more content into your newsfeed from communities – these come in the form of Pages and Groups.

If your page is highly themed and niche, like a specific sports team then it makes sense that it may be something you’re interested in. However Facebook are looking for engagement from those page and so creating conversation and keeping users engaged will be more important than ever before for Page owners.

There will still be Pages large and small able to create good levels of interaction for free but I expect this to become harder with the latest updates. If you weren’t already paying to boost your Page content to all of your fans then now’s definitely the time to start experimenting with this. Expect to pay increasing costs as the newsfeed becomes even more expensive than it already is. 

Except if you’re in the fastest growing Facebook countries with cheap CPMs such as India, Brazil or Indonesia. Sure, they might be your ideal market now, but there are probably other monetisation opportunities still to be explored in emerging markets like this. 

Facebook are putting extra effort into new product development

On the flipside there are a growing number of product placements Facebook are developing. For me, 2017 was more the year of Messenger and in particular, bots. There’s still a huge untapped market for bots and its not too late to jump on the bandwagon, both to advertise on and through Messenger.

Then there’s Instagram, where Stories became the latest growth opportunity where many have seen success. With Facebook recently announcing plans to include WhatsApp in paid marketing (Facebook warmed it up recently with a click to WhatsApp test) and other products Facebook might be working on, it could mean more advertising placements for advertisers to take advantage of.

Advertising on Facebook can still be profitable in 2018

There are over 5 million advertisers on the platform with Q2 2017 spend coming in at $9.3 billion. With more advertisers its easy to fear-monger the demise of  paid Facebook ads. Yet Facebook are clearly telling you what you need to do:

High relevance score = lower auction costs = more opportunities to have your ad placed in front of your target user.

Facebook rewards advertisers for a great user experience. But now, you need to look beyond engagement and click bait, and look at aligning yourself with Facebook – add value, create meaningful content, be purposeful. That means using the full-suite of tools at your disposal on the Facebook platforn and complementing it at least with paid search and email to attract, engage and convert.

The world is rapidly evolving, in tech and with our closeness as a human race; there is the realisation of just how intertwined we really are on this immensely large, yet universally small planet.