Our declaration last October that Facebook was failing marketers and that brands should focus their social efforts elsewhere created a lot of discussion. To no one's surprise, most of the people defending Facebook were vendors that rely directly upon Facebook marketing for their livelihood.
Just four months later, the debate seems to be over. Is there any doubt now that Facebook has abandoned social marketing, and that its paid ad products aren’t delivering results for most marketers? Consider:
- Marketers can now reach just 6% of their fans organically. When we published our research, some brands were surprised to find that Facebook only delivered posts to 16% of their fans. In December a leaked sales deck revealed that Facebook was telling marketers they should expect organic distribution of posts to decline further — but few could guess how far and how fast that distribution would fall. This month, Ogilvy released data showing that the brand pages they manage reach just 6% of fans. For pages with more than 500,000 fans, Ogilvy says reach stands at just 2%.
- Brands and agencies are now openly talking about their discontent. Every day I talk to brands that are disillusioned with Facebook and are now placing their bets on other social sites — but few of them want to go on the record. Lately, though, more brands and agencies have started speaking openly to the media about how Facebook is failing them. One former Facebook advertiser referred to Facebook as “one of the most lucrative grifts of all time.”
- Marketers are worried many of their fans are “fake.” Many marketers and many publishers are reporting that huge percentages of their fans come from emerging markets where they didn’t expect to find an audience. The kicker? They’re saying many of those fans don’t seem to interact with people or with branded content — they seem to do little other than "like" thousands and thousands of brand pages. The conclusion some marketers are coming to: The paid ads Facebook encourages them to buy often lead to “fake” fans generated by “like farms.”
No wonder a B2B marketer told me recently that Facebook’s constant rule changes were “the biggest problem we have,” and as a result they were focusing more of their social efforts on Twitter and LinkedIn. And no wonder a national retailer told me they’re no longer dedicating content resources to Facebook, just reposting assets from more-effective social sites (which for them, perhaps ironically, includes Instagram.)
All these marketers want Facebook to live up to its promise and to become a valuable marketing channel. They just don’t believe it’ll ever happen.