The Death of Facebook Marketing
Facebook is a household name. Everyone with access to the internet has probably used it at one point or another, and even if they haven’t, they’ve at least heard of it. Because of this, Michael Stelzner, the editor of the Social Media Marketing Industry Report was shocked when he learned that Facebook is facing a decline in marketing interest for the first time in five years.
The report is a compilation of answers to survey questions aimed towards marketer feelings on various marketing platforms. Questions are based on marketers attitudes towards social media platforms and the marketing tools they offer.
For years, Facebook has been a leader across all social media platforms, and, even more importantly for businesses of all shapes and sizes around the world--the leading marketing platform. Previous marketing industry reports from 2015 to 2018 showed a steady increase in marketers’ interest in using Facebook. In 2015, Facebook saw an increase in marketer interest from previous years, reaching an unprecedented-for-the-time 52% interest from marketers who answered the survey. From there, it only grew more popular: 2016 found a 55% marketer interest, 2017 a 62% interest, and 2018 a 67% interest.
This past year, however, saw the first decline in five years. Marketer interest in using Facebook to reach consumers dropped down to 61%--an eight point drop, and below even the interest of 2017. Even more bleak for Facebook’s marketing outlook, the plans that many marketers already using Facebook have for the continuation of that use over the next year also dropped significantly. One-tenth of respondents said that they will be decreasing their organic marketing on Facebook. Only 51% of respondents said that they will be increasing their organic marketing on Facebook--a pretty big drop from the 62% who said they’d be increasing their marketing last year.
So what happened?
The Facebook Privacy Scandal
When news broke out last year that there had been a privacy breach wherein Facebook passed on the personal information of its users to large corporations without their consent, the world was outraged. Facebook had promised to protect users’ privacy, and it broke that promise in one fell swoop. Users became mistrustful of the company. The media giant that had once ruled over all other social media platforms because of its self-proclaimed top-notch security and privacy for its users was now cause for suspicion. People--especially younger people--began moving away from the platform in droves.
And when the people marketers are trying to market to leave behind the marketing platform, it doesn’t bode well for most entrepreneurs. How can they reach their intended audience if that audience isn’t even using the platform they’re paying thousands of dollars to help them market to a wide range of people?
In a way, it’s Facebook’s own fault that it’s started to fall away from it’s lead in the marketing game. For companies to want to market to potential customers through a social media platform, they need to know that there are actually consumers to market to. The privacy scandal driving away some of their users doesn’t leave most marketers with good faith that marketing through Facebook would actually work for them, so the decrease in marketing interest makes sense.
The Proposed Fix
In a burst of damage control, Facebook has claimed that it’s going to do better for its users. Mark Zuckerberg, himself, has said that “the future is privacy.” This may sound appealing to marketers at first glance, because it could mean bringing in a new audience of people to market to. But as Michael Stelzner points out in his breakdown of “the future is privacy,” it may actually lead marketers to fair even worse than they already are.
The future of Facebook being focused on privacy ultimately means that feeds are going to be mostly centered around private groups. People will be able to choose whose content they see and who they share their own content with. This could prove to make marketers’ lives even more difficult because it may shut their content out of certain circles.
What has the potential to bring in a slew of new consumers could also wind up being the downfall of companies looking to market through Facebook. The goal of marketing is to actually reach a wide audience. This is not a feasible goal if the content in certain circles can only be shared within those circles. Marketing techniques may be blocked by some circles or shut in by others, but either way, they won’t be able to reach the breadth of audience that they desire to.
Not to mention, it’s becoming more and more difficult to buy and run ads successfully on Facebook. They’re becoming increasingly expensive--so much so that experts predict that in another few years, only billion-dollar companies will be able to afford Facebook’s price to display ads. There’s also the issue of competition. There are a lot of companies trying to market through Facebook. Not everyone is going to share the same success, so some companies may be stepping away in favor of finding new grounds to market in.
Where are marketers going?
While looking at the significant decrease of market interest in Facebook, market researchers have also been looking at its competitors. If companies aren’t going to Facebook anymore, that means they must be going somewhere else to spread their message to the public. Those who compiled the Social Media Market Industry Report also looked at the market interest of Facebook’s most relevant competitors.
Twitter’s market interest has dropped to almost insignificance.
While it may have had some significance a few years ago, in recent years there has been “a mass exodus” away from Twitter for most marketers.
LinkedIn market has been dropping steadily over the years, but has seen a slight jump from 12-14% interest in the last year.
As a media site that is designed specifically for professionals, LinkedIn is a great place for companies that are catering to professionals to use for their marketing purposes, but companies that have no connection to the professional arena may struggle to find their footing on this platform.
Instagram has become the second-most important platform for marketers for the first time ever.
Interest in marketing through Instagram has been growing slowly, but surely for the past five years, but it’s only this year that it’s seen the jump in interest to make it a contender with Facebook--not that it makes much of a difference, since Instagram is owned by Facebook.
While it has an impressive user interface, not all of Facebook’s features are helpful for marketers trying to reach an audience.
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all have features to broadcast a live video, but the functionality and use of them differs immensely between each platform. Twitter’s “go live” function works, but it isn’t necessarily the easiest to use. It’s tucked away inside the camera function, and it’s easy to miss if you aren’t fumbling around with the camera to begin with. Facebook and Instagram live video functions on pretty equal footing. They’re both fairly easy to use, and they’re a great way for marketers to interact with consumers in real-time.
Still, the use of Facebook Live by marketers falls short when compared to the use of Instagram Live. According to this year’s report, 43% of marketers are doing absolutely nothing with live video. Only 34% of those who do use live video as a marketing tool are using Facebook Live, and more and more marketers are moving to Instagram to broadcast their live video feed.
Despite its user-friendly function, Facebook Live is still an incredibly difficult tool for marketers to use for the purposes they need it. If they’re trying to use it to interact with consumers in real-time, they may run into some trouble because Facebook’s algorithm doesn’t allow for a lot of traffic to live videos. The videos themselves can also be a hassle for marketers to start and stop, since they’ll most likely need to keep them short and sweet if they want to hold their audience’s attention, and they can be ruined in a second if there are technical difficulties.
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all capable of uploading previously recorded videos, as well, but none of them really see much of these from their marketers. Rather, the most popular platform for uploading pre-recorded videos is YouTube.
Thus far, YouTube hasn’t had much of a name as a good marketing platform. When it comes to videos, however, it makes sense that it would fair well among marketers looking to expand their marketing practices--it is a website cataloguing videos, after all! It can be difficult for marketers to use a platform like Facebook for pre-recorded video marketing for some of the same exact reasons that it’s difficult for them to use Facebook for live video. Facebook users are usually there to see quick and snappy content. They don’t want to spend more than ten minutes watching a video. YouTube users, on the other hand, are there specifically to watch videos. In many cases, they’re ready to spend a minimum of 30 minutes watching videos, which for a marketer is great for long-term exposure.
Facebook’s market interest has decreased simply because it’s not the best option anymore. Marketers need platforms that are going to help them reach wider audiences, that will provide provide them with user-friendly features. If Facebook can’t be that platform anymore, that’s okay. There are plenty more out there.