You may have seen some of these new data sets about Facebook and usage. Basically, Forrester went out and told people that it was a bad marketing strategy. (Concur.) Organic reach has been dying forever, and large-brand Facebook posts are only reaching 2 percent of their fans — as well as getting terrible interaction numbers (0.07% engagement). Fast Company is going out and saying that brands might be “wasting their time” on Facebook. (Interestingly, the best day to get engagement is Fridays, probably because everyone is slacking off at work.)
Forrester goes out and says to stop making Facebook a major part of your marketing strategy, and I agree. Here’s why.
As a whole, marketing departments are pretty fascinated with big numbers. That’s why TV was a staple of marketing plans for years, and that’s why everyone rushed into Facebook with its billion users. A billion is a huge number. Imagine if you could really put your products and ideas in front of that many people? That would be awesome. Of course, you can’t. And of course, Facebook became a public company, which means it has a fiduciary responsibility to make money for its shareholders, and so of course the brand connection was going to become about “pay to play.” That had to happen. You see this all over social media. Facebook basically admitted it’s all over.
I’d also argue that what happened with Facebook is a lot of brands rushed in, but they had no real idea what to do with it. Facebook with your friends and family is different than Facebook as a business venture, and I think people get confused by that often.
Now think about a parallel made in the Forrester article: e-mail vs. Facebook. E-mail would seem to be the bigger/better thing for marketing at this exact moment. If you post something on Facebook, maybe 2 percent of the available audience will see it. For e-mail, the number will be much higher. Also, when you hit “like” on a Facebook page, that’s a pretty passive thing. I’ve liked a ton of shit that I would never care about as a consumer. When you enter your e-mail address into a box, though, you’re saying to that brand, “I want to hear from you.”
So e-mail is considered kind of sacred in the marketing world, yes, but I feel like that could be a fool’s errand too. In 2013, 838 billion marketing e-mails were sent. 89 billion business e-mails are sent every day. That’s a lot of e-mail. Yes, you see stats that 91 percent of potential customers do check their e-mail daily — that’s probably true — but you also see stats that the average click-through rate for B2B is 1.7 percent. (That’s not really that good.)
I think we’ve reached a point in human evolution where people understand how to tune out any message, be it Facebook or e-mail or whatever else. If they (the end customer) have a need, they’ll seek out information pertaining to that need, and that’s where the whole idea of “content marketing” really emerged from. Problem is, it’s hard to draw a straight line from “This piece of content over here” to “This sale over here.”
So if e-mail can be tuned out (your co-workers probably taught you that) and Facebook requires $$$ for reach, what’s the next frontier in marketing?
I think it might involve texting or processing how people look at happiness throughout their life (and telling stories that speak to the right generation). It could also be “branded communities” like this PlayStation one; if you think about it, deeply-embedded communities like WordPress and Reddit have high levels of engagement, and marketers like that.
Here’s the essential problem:
- Something is cool and feels like a community. An organic thing that you belong to.
- Marketers see that engagement and rush in.
- It becomes less cool and organic.
- People leave it.
- Marketers lose interest.
- (Or it becomes too popular and the site/service realizes they can start charging people to find fans/friends on there.)
It’s a constant dance — when something feels too marketing/sales-y, people will start to lose trust in it, and that makes it less appealing to marketers. You’re seeing some of that context with Facebook now, and we’ll probably see a drop in e-mail-is-the-strategy numbers in a few years too. Much like marketing as a service heralds “the next big thing” or “next great solution,” so too does marketing as a philosophy need to keep looking for that.