Is Facebook Worth the Effort Anymore?

Facebok social media marketing

I’m finding it harder and harder to recommend Facebook as an integral part of the marketing mix for my clients. Yes, they’re almost at a billion users. Yes, they have ridiculous amount of traffic. Yes, they have one of most powerful ad targeting systems… but I just have a feeling we’re seeing the crest of Facebook’s domination and you may want to look into diversifying your digital assets. Here’s why:

It’s not focused on users anymore.

Even before the infamous IPO, Facebook started shifting its focus away from keeping users happy to keeping advertisers happy. New ad units, Timeline for business, Agency outreach and so forth. It seems that most of the “improvements” were and are oriented towards revenue generation rather then user retention and engagement. While still the most popular social media network – Facebook is starting to lose its cool factor. If you search for “facebook losing its cool” on google, you’ll see hundreds of thousands of entries. And even though they’re approaching a billion users, the uptake has slowed down considerably in the early adopter / early majority demo. Also notice how loose the “active users” stats are. Just because there are so many users – there is only a small fraction that is actually active.

 

It’s too crowded

A couple of years ago, it was easy to set up shop on Facebook and stand out. Just having a mediocre page was a marketing advantage, because you had access to a new pool of customers and your competitors were either too lazy or unaware to pose any serious challenge. These days however, there are millions of Facebook pages for everything from Tide detergent to kayak rentals in Tanzania and the whole system is becoming increasingly more competitive and challenging to navigate. Those who had the foresight to get into the game early are now reaping the benefits of their audience. Those who are entering the field late have a considerable uphill battle in front of them. It’s much, much harder to stand out in a crowded marketplace and that’s exactly what Facebook has become. This drives your engagement, content creation and of course advertising costs way up. I remember running an ad campaign for a music store in 2009 for $200. That same campaign would easily cost more then 10 times that amount now.

 

It’s not easy

Facebook used to be easy to navigate and manage. You had your status updates, photos, links and likes. Now there are marketplaces, logout ads, Facebook places, SocialCam integration, Timelines, Highlighted posts, Pins and numerous other third party integrations. And it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. There’s a new feature being introduced every few weeks. They recently acquired Instagram and just recently a mobile developer Piecable. When you try to become everything to everyone – you become nothing to noone. This is clearly the direction Facebook is heading in. Will things change for the better? I don’t know… but I can tell you that I’m looking into other alternatives for my clients to reach their target markets.

 

Facebook has turned from blue ocean to a bloody red ocean. Is it worth your effort and investment anymore? That’s up to you to figure out and I hope I provided you with some food for thought in this post. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

 

– Ernest // Follow me on Twitter

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26 thoughts on “Is Facebook Worth the Effort Anymore?

  1. Funny, a friend and I were just talking yesterday about whether Facebook is dying. Most of the updates I get are from pages I’ve liked, and not from friends. A vast proportion of friend updates are about their comments on or likes of posts and pictures from people I don’t know. Messages of interest from people I care about are getting fewer and fewer, partly because those friends are not active on the site, or because FB isn’t sending them to my wall as we haven’t interacted directly in a while. For these reasons, I’m losing interest in the site. FB isn’t benefitting from my account, either, as I have an ad-blocking extension set up on my browser, so don’t see any of the material the site might be sending my way.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience! I believe you’re not alone in feeling that way. My usage has certainly dropped off, but that said there is still a significant pull towards Facebook because of how much we all invested. From photos to check-ins and relationship updates it’s been a pretty integral part of our lives. It’s interesting to see how all that is waning (for the time being).

      The feed updates you mentioned are illustrative of the change in focus and I wonder if the investors are seeing this as well, or they’re just hoping to cash out before it crashes.

    • “Most of the updates I get are from pages I’ve liked, and not from friends.”

      So true. I’ve been slowly unliking some of the worst offenders (Wendy’s, Old Spice, to name a couple)

  2. I’ve been thinking very similar things seeing a more “client focused” approach to facebook recently, but your post didn’t mention that it’s becoming more difficult for advertisers to get a post out. Since the “Sponsored Post” option on facebook has opened I’ve seen a 30-40% reduction in my exposure. Unfortunately I still feel that a majority of people will stay on facebook until a better option opens that is easy for them to take all of their friends with them. Many other networks aren’t ambitious enough to challenge Facebook, and let’s face it Google+ is the coolest ghost town in existence. At the moment I have moved my marketing efforts away from trying to use facebook to generate leads in the conventional way, and instead just use it to generate leads through contest. It does worry me that marketing for facebook isn’t nearly as high converting as it used to be, but maybe that’s just how it is. All good things come to an end in life, perhaps even facebook.

    • It’s pretty amazing to me that I may have seen a giant like Facebook be born, rise and then fall – all within my lifetime. A company with a valuation of 100 Billion dollars.

      It’s interesting that you mention a drop off in engagement – it almost seems it was an arbitrary move in order to generate more revenue, which in turn alienates both users and advertisers.

    • Tyler – I’m glad you mention the drop in exposure. We’ve seen a huuuuge drop in reach, feedback % and virality, across all our clients, since Timeline has come out.

      We’re frustrated, because we’ve earned or bought these users, and now we’re having to pay twice just to reach them. It’s making us (advertisers) really turned off by the whole concept.

  3. Recent studies also show that customers don’t want to “engage with brands” on Facebook.

    I think the whole social media community needs to take a good look in the mirror and look to the old school social web – message boards, IRC chat, etc – what ingredient(s) are we missing? The social web still has a lot of maturing to do.

    • Perhaps? My feeling is that we need to let social media BE social media instead of trying to turn it into a marketing channel right away. When you see Pinterest launch – and within a month or two it’s already loaded with brands… it loses its appeal to normal, regular users who are just there to share pictures and ideas, not to be marketed to. I think the downfall of any social network is going to be in the application of their monetization strategy.

      The one who answers the question of HOW to monetize without alienating your userbase will be the clear winner.

  4. Great article Ernest!

    About a year ago I decided to not focus on a Facebook page for my brand. I’ve been successful without it and have no future plans to add it as a core part of my marketing strategy. I suppose that action in itself is telling.

    • Thanks Marc and thank you for posting your thoughts. I think we may be seeing a tide of change happening. At the end of the day, it’s us (the users and advisors) who have the power to make that shift happen towards or away from a network.

  5. Great post Ernest!

    I find that pages for brands is a very difficult thing to do. Even if you have thousands or millions of likes, you’re seeing that not many likes are happening. Where I do find Facebook is successful is in athletes – people like connecting with a real person so I’m seeing athletes have success and that’s where I’m seeing success for what I do on there.

    • If people like connecting with a real person, rather then a brand – do you think it would be more effective to portray a brand as a person, or have one person be the “face” of the company on Facebook?

  6. Totally agree with your sentiment here, Ernest. I especially agree with your statement: “When you try to become everything to everyone – you become nothing to noone.”
    The social part is nearly gone and FB has become the very thing that people were trying to get away from when it all started 5+ years ago.

    • As soon as they hired an old school marketing lead (Carolyn Everson from Microsoft in 2011) and started talking about GRPs – it’s been quite a shift. It seems they’re destined to become the next AOL.

  7. I quit facebook when it comes to my personal account… too much drama. I have another account to manage my business page, as there are over 5000 likes on it and I don’t just want to dump it. But yeah, for me, it’s been a huge waste of time. Pinterest and twitter are the only social networks getting my attention these days, with Google+ on the back burner.

  8. Spooky, just been chatting about this with one of our clients.

    I advise our clients to avoid it, have done for a while. The principle reason is that when I speak to the target audience of our clients (professionals in IT/business 25-50 yrs) they’re not using Facebook as a professional network, it’s generally to connect with friends and family. Pound for pound, our clients get much better traction using sites like LinkedIn and more specialised sites that are focused on our particular corner of the industry.

    I think 99.9% of adult consumers are totally uninterested in engaging or coming back to branded pages, there’s very little to entertain people and if there is it’s largely fleeting.

  9. I can really relate to so many of the comments here. I have been feeling like Facebook just wants me pay more and more to try and keep my FB page effective.

    So my question is this — what social media platforms could we be looking at to successfully replace Facebook ? (beyond Twitter)

  10. Ernest,

    I tend to agree. You’re right about Facebook changing their focus from users to advertisers – and investors. Facebook has to answer to their investors and probably are not in their good books with the fiasco around the IPO and share price drops.

    We’re already seeing more features to appease advertisers, make more money and appease investors. One example are the promoted posts where you can pay $6 or $11 dollars to promote a post.

    Facebook only has Facebook, if there is an issue with their product, they have nothing else to fall back on. In contrast, look at Google and Google+. Google has a reputation of launching social utilities like Wave and Buzz and having them flop. But they had numerous other products to keep them going like YouTube, Adwords, Android, etc.

    I think the next 1-2 years will be interesting to watch as Facebook tries to appease investors while not losing users. I think the only reason Facebook isn’t in trouble is that the exodus hasn’t started. The only reason people don’t use other tools like Google+ is that their friends are not there. Once people start moving from Facebook, that will spell the end.

  11. I think the biggest problem is that most of your friends and fans do see your posts anymore. I have many updates that end up with a reach of 0 and handful that get in the 500’s. Things are too random now, the only way to ensure people see your stuff is to pay for it.

  12. Facebook is dying. You can’t even find friends anymore and friends don’t receive updates. That means low self esteem people, 80% of Facebook users will not use the site as often. Most teenagers also think it is not cool anymore; it’s a thing that grandpa uses. If you want to get back at them use Firefox browser, then install “Adblock Edge” (not Plus) and Ghostery and DoNotTrackMe addons on it. You won’t see more ads on the web, which includes Facebook and Youtube videos. Dump Chrome. It is a spying nightmare. Tell your children.

    FB will go the way of Myspace. I predicted that right before they went public. They keep messing up the site. If they only knew how vulnerable they are. It take one dedicated guy from Warriorforum, blackhatforum and webmasterworld to start another Facebook and have it spread like wildfire. After all they were the engines behind Google, Facebook, Myspace, Pinterest and most big sites, believe it or not. Without these evil creatures, these sites would have never taken off. Without the spammers, marketers, blackhatters and web delinquents, Facebook would have been nothing today. I know because I was one of their millions of promoters back in the day.

  13. Facebook Pages are no more a social think. Its totally a business for Facebook. Now that people started realized the fact, Facebook is trying not to concentrate much on Facebook pages development. Rather its pushing out the unpaid page authors thus forcing them to pay so is they need their posts to be circulated. So practically Facebook is useless. And this has even been published by the forbs: http://www.forbes.com/sites/elandekel/2013/01/22/facebook-pages-are-a-bad-investment-for-small-businesses/

    By the way I run the page: http://www.facebook.com/ajujacobofficial

    Thankyou everyone for reading by view point. Hope this helps your business.

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