Some can argue that there are a lot of other efficient online acquisition channels – Of course! Email marketing when it is performance-based and targets qualitative databases is great, some content affiliates when controlled enough can also deliver positive results in the long run. These need to remain part of the marketing-mix if the business you are working for can benefit from it. And then, there are social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, G+, Youtube, Blogs, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and the others.
As biggest social network on earth, Facebook starts to learn from its past mistakes and gets better everyday at delivering ROI positive results for many advertisers. But is it up to replace Google as biggest acquisition channel? Well, it’s not that easy …
Good and Bad
Based on my personal experience, I would say that there is a good chance that Marketers keep on increasing their Facebook share of budget over the coming months but not over the coming years. Below some thoughts on why they will get bigger over the short term and why not over the longer term.
1. Users volume: Although teens seem to spend less time on Facebook than beforehe average time spent on Social Media . Facebook as biggest network is the first to benefit from this. It’s penetration in Western European countries grew from 41% to 50% between Feb’13 and Feb’14. and nearly doubled in some other regions of the world over the same period (f.i. East Asia)
2. Targeting: Facebook is by for the most advanced targeted network and this will keep on being so with people completing their profiles. On top, the Custom Audience system allows very specific targeting and therefore better results. G+ is actively pushing in the same direction but is still lagging behind.
3. Pricing: Depending on the type of sector and the country you are active in, the CPC’s on Facebook are still acceptable. Competition has not yet reached a high level everywhere and many advertisers are still able to find affordable niches.
4. ROI: Combination of the previous 2 points with a good message and a clear CTA (Call to Action) can deliver really profitable results, especially for B2C ecommerce sites. You see more and more successful case studies emerging worldwide.
1. Active users: A recent study published by John Cannarella and Joshua A. Spechler from Princeton University compares the evolution of Facebook to a disease showing that there is a clear trend towards abandonment of the platform – Just like it happened for MySpace. According to the study, by 2016, over 80% of users will have abandoned the site. Oh nooo… I just started to like it 🙂
2. Relevancy & Edgerank: With the increased number of users comes a huge challenge for Facebook: How to show the right content to the right user at the right moment? An average user has over 300 friends and likes more than 30 pages. This means that we reached a point where we don’t get to see most of what our friends or liked pages are publishing on a regular basis unless we interact with them often enough or their posts go viral. Facebook uses its Edgerank to manage the content you get to see but its far from being perfect. OK… I admit that Google algorithm is not perfect either but at least you get some SEO tips to work on your free visibility. With the Edgerank, as advertisers, no matter what you do, you know that your published content will be seen by less than 16% of your fans (or is it 10% now) unless you pay to promote it. At least on Google, the combination free (SEO) and paid (SEA) allows to keep a longer term profitability which removes some frustration from investing in Adwords.
3. Search mode vs. browse mode: The base model of Google remains directly linked to “action”. People searching on a specific subject are and will always be more incline to act/buy than people in browsing mode. This results in better conversion rates on Google Search.
4. Consistency of results vs. time investment: Probably the most annoying element for Marketers on Facebook. Results obtained with ads are regularly inconsistent and variability from campaign to campaign can be very high. e.g.: You invest a half day in preparing a campaign and when you launch it, results are good. 2 days later for no clear reason, CPC increased 2 times, conversion dropped 4 times. You stop, create a new ad and bingo! the results are suddenly good again. What the … This happens even with big target groups. When you try get profitable, the time you invest in preparing a campaign also plays a role. On Google side, when you get volume, you get consistent results over time which means that the amount of time invested in preparing campaigns becomes more profitable.
In the end, I believe Facebook Ads are a nice opportunity in which Marketers need to invest more time and budget. Trial and learning is key. Let’s hope that Facebook keeps on improving the system, especially from a results consistency point of view.
What about your experience? Do you see other elements that contribute to making Facebook a ROI positive channel?