Is Facebook Anti-ROI for Brands?

by · July 26, 201215 comments

Does anyone else feel like Facebook is making it really difficult for brands to be successful? Or do you feel like Facebook is on your side? Personally, I feel like Facebook has become disconnected from what brands are trying to achieve and they keep making it more difficult to be able to prove the ROI of having a Facebook presence. Why would brands invest big dollars into a platform that seems to constantly turn its nose up at their efforts? Further, how can we ever get the budgets we need to make additional investments if Facebook has an anti-ROI policy for brands?

Zuckerbag's Anti-ROI PolicyAt the end of the day brands are on Facebook for a reason. We want to drive fan engagement, sure. But ultimately it’s about driving a financial return to the organization. Every brand has an action that they want their fans to take, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to drive to the right call to action when Facebook keeps stripping away our ability to do it.

With the release of timeline there were some nice features for brands. We can now pin certain posts to the top of the page. That’s cool. And now we can even schedule posts. That’s cool too, but we were already able to do that through third party tools. Way to catch up, Facebook.

Facebook Removes Calls to Action

When timeline was released I was surprised there wasn’t more backlash at removing the ability to have a default landing tab. Default landing tabs helped brands tell first time visitors why they should like their page. Many brands also used their default landing tab to inform visitors about loyalty programs, special offers, and exclusive content. The only option you may have to accomplish this now is on the brands cover image. Too bad Facebook doesn’t want that, either. Their new terms and conditions explicitly say:

“Covers may not include:

i.    price or purchase information, such as ‘40% off’ or ‘Download it on socialmusic.com’;

ii.    contact information such as a website address, email, mailing address, or information that should go in your Page’s ‘About’ section;

iii.    references to Facebook features or actions, such as ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ or an arrow pointing from the cover photo to any of these features; or

iv.    calls to action, such as ‘Get it now’ or ‘Tell your friends.’”

This policy shows a complete disregard for the brands who are supporting Facebook’s revenue stream. I understand that there were some brands that did a poor job of building compelling offers and perhaps led to the creation of this policy, but there were far more who provided fans with value through their calls to action. But the intent is pretty clear.

Facebook Forces Brands to Use Tabs that 54% of Users Can’t See

Another challenge is that if you take the time to build a compelling offer or contest for your fans it must be deployed on a tab. That’s not too bad, right? Well unless your fans are like most of the world and access Facebook through a mobile device. Edison Research reported that 54% of Facebook users access the site through their mobile phone in The Social Habit. And we all know we can’t look at a brand page’s tabs if we are accessing through mobile.

It seems that Facebook wants you to pay for driving action on the platform through the use of ads, offers, and sponsored posts. Zuckerberg has been testing new revenue models, something that he was very protective of prior to the company’s IPO. But it seems that pressure from investors is pushing him to consider new alternatives. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t seem to have connected for him that brands need be able to show the ROI of Facebook before they invest big dollars, which is becoming more and more difficult for marketers to accomplish with these new policies and feature changes.

Facebook wants Revenue. Companies want ROI.

It’s the chicken and egg scenario. Facebook seems to want you to invest more to be able to demonstrate a higher return, and marketers are struggling to try and demonstrate the return on the investment they’ve already made. Who will win? Unfortunately, for now Facebook will likely win this battle. They have the audience and we need to capture the audience. Therefore, we are at their mercy. But Facebook should strongly consider how they treat the brands they rely on. There has been so much focus on making Facebook better for the average user, that it may be time to start focusing on making changes to help brands maximize their ROI.

Facebook is the big dog today, but Zuckerberg should be cautious. He remembers what he was able to do to MySpace which probably seemed like an impossible feat at the time. If a new network comes along that can capture their users with a better interface, cooler features and makes it easy for brands to achieve positive ROI for participating, they could very well be at risk. But we know that will take a couple of years, so for now, we will deal with your shortcomings while we try to engage our fans. But until Facebook figures out that conversions are the name of the game, we will continually sit in board rooms trying to justify your existence to executives who aren’t in it to be cool. They want to make money. So does Facebook. There has to be a happy medium somewhere that doesn’t revolve around an advertising model. That’s so 2000 and late Zuckerberg.

So let’s tell Facebook exactly what we need to be able to demonstrate a higher return on investment to our executive teams. This is your chance to share your ideas on how Facebook can become brand friendly. What features do you want for your brand pages? What metrics are you longing for? What changes have been made to your brand page that leave you saying WTF? What would you be willing to pay for?

Leave a comment and tell the Facebook team exactly what they need to do to start supporting the brands who pay their bills. 

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About Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly is the CEO of Social Media Explorer|SME Digital. She is also the author of How to Measure Social Media. Her team helps companies figure out where social media fits and then helps execute the recommended strategy across the “right” mix of social media channels. Do you want to rock the awesome with your digital marketing strategy? Contact Nichole

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • cecycorrea

    I think all these measures, while seemingly less “brand friendly” are meant to create a more positive user experience, an experience that is less spammy for users. And I fully support this, even as a marketer. A good brand engagement strategy will focus on building relationships with your customers, not whether or not you can place CTAs on your Timeline cover.

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      I don’t think it’s only about being able to place CTA’s on your timeline cover. But here’s the reality.  Executives are questioning whether there is a true ROI in social media. And in this post 
      http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/social-media-marketing/infographic-how-to-determine-facebook-and-twitter-roi/ we talked about the claim that 73% of CEO’s think marketers lack credibility. Why? Because 77% of CEO’s claim marketers don’t talk about what matters: sales. As a marketer if we can’t drive the user to action it becomes extremely difficult to translate fans into revenue. So if Facebook truly wants to help marketers demonstrate the ROI of being on Facebook it would be in their best interest to work with some of us on changes that would do both: generate a positive user experience and have a positive ROI for brands.

      • http://www.facebook.com/cemanthe Cémanthe Harris

        Surely though if CEOs want to talk about sales then they should have a sales department and not a marketing department? Marketing, advertising, PR, social media and sales are different mediums of getting to the same audience.. it’s like eating a banana and expecting it to taste like an apple because it’s a fruit. 

        Each should be measuring something unique to what it does best, as well as being integrated to bring best all round results:
        Sales = bottom lineMarketing = reputationAdvertising = calls to actionPR = brand profileSocial = engagement

        Maybe we should stop trying to ‘drive the user to take action’ and rather offer such incredible value that they feel moved/compelled to interact or take action in some way? Personally I think that the old fashioned way of marketing is very focused on hard line results for the business, rather than the hard line results for the user. It’s like a post I wrote on ‘Reverse ROI: What is the ROI for the user to invest time into your brand?’

        Yes, a business should make money or you are running a hobby, however, it should not be all that the business stands for. What about collaboration, engagement, interaction, communication and community? Move over traditional, come in social business.

        #RantOver :)

  • http://www.flybluekite.com Laura Click

    I can’t help but wonder if Zuckerberg has been trying to protect users. My gut is that he does’t want Facebook to be overrun with non-stop marketing messages that will send users running. For the most part, people don’t get on Facebook to engage with brands. Sure, they like the giveaways and discounts, but I can’t say that people are clamoring to see what companies have to say.

    I think Zuckerberg is between a rock and a hard place – do you make it easier for marketers so you can generate more revenue or do you protect the user experience so they have someone to market to? I think finding that balance is the issue.

    But, you’re right. There are definitely some ways were Facebook could partner with brands a little bit better. And if they don’t, marketers will take their time and budget somewhere else.

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Great points Laura. I agree 100%. It’s about partnership. Figuring out what brands want and finding a way to deliver it while maintaining a positive user experience. People love to buy! But they hate to be sold. Facebook has on opportunity to deliver that experience with the right mix if they chose to.

  • http://twitter.com/rpulvino Rich Pulvino

    I agree with the other two comments, that in its essence, Facebook is more about the users than the brands. Laura brought up the great point about protecting the user experience. Facebook needs to maintain some control over marketers or it could end up being as interactive as the Yellow Pages. But if brands want to participate among this population, they’ll need to adhere to Facebook’s rules.

    The restrictions Facebook has brought upon brands makes our jobs harder, but the goal is simple—be human. Talk with customers and share like they do. It’s cliche, but it’s as important as ever, particularly since most brand interaction is happening in people’s news feed and not on brand timelines. Focus on the conversations first.

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Savvy marketers are definitely finding a way to deliver despite Facebook’s terms and conditions. Trust me…I’ve spent a lot of time figuring that out myself. But I do think a lot of people forget that only 16% of fans are seeing our messages (
      http://mashable.com/2012/05/24/facebook-post-reach/ ) and I’ve seen reports of 6-8% of fans see the content. As a user we don’t want to be inundated with brand content, but throwing all sponsored posts in our stream doesn’t help either. Which is what it feels like lately. There is a balance and personally I don’t think Facebook has found it yet. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/M4WEV3OQYIWYWRZKV7LPAU3TVQ A

    I think brands have gotten so used to getting their way and throwing their $$ around to get what they want, that it’s a shock when a company wants to protect users first, or at least shield them. Zuck probably remembers that the downfall of many social sites was spam. Because brands want, want, want to do what they want via FB doesn’t mean it’s best. Granted, it’s a challenge to get income and make investors happy, but if brands go crazy, users will flee. 

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      A – I think there are many brands out there that aim to provide a valuable experience for their fans and if Zuckerberg was truly interested in protecting users first there wouldn’t be an ad model at all. Just sayin’

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  • http://www.facebook.com/cemanthe Cémanthe Harris

    Timeline is great for brands and fans alike, as it makes the page more visually compelling. I have issue though, as listed above, about Facebook taking away the landing tab. It was a good way to get fans on the page (but maybe this is why they took it away as it was a free way to do so?). Less fans means that brands will find another way to engage… cue next social network.
    Even though Facebook is free, that’s no reason for people not to expect good service. I don’t understand why people insist on “it’s free therefore you should just accept it”… how would this apply if a fast food store gave out free food that was undercooked?
    I’d bring back the landing tab as a priority as now you can’t even see more than half of the tabs if you have the full amount (and why is the photo tab unmovable?) nevermind on mobile phones!

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Agreed! Right on. Thanks for commenting.

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