A mildly interesting speed bump in Facebook’s road trip to Wall Street appeared this week when GM decided to stop running Facebook Ads: GM Says Facebook Ads Don’t Pay Off. Of course, this has let to rampant speculation that Facebook advertising is ineffective, and big advertisers are worried that FB spends too much time working on the User Experience, and not enough time working on the Advertiser Experience. Here’s Forbes’s take on it.
First of all, a warning to Advertisers: the reason Facebook has the user involvement it does is because it spends so much time focused on user experience. In fact, a consistent fear of many Facebook users is that Facebook will “sell out” and become completely ad focused, a la Myspace. You want to know where ads REALLY fail? On a nonexistent platform.
That being said, I have no idea what metrics GM was using to measure the success of their Facebook advertising. The above Forbes article suggests that earlier this year Facebook questioned their approach, suggesting that their advertising was being handled by too many different entities within and outside their company. The lack of a unified approach suggests that they really didn’t understand what they were doing.
The key to success at Facebook advertising is to have a strategy before you start. Here’s a few tips:
- It begins and ends with relationship. Facebook is a social network, and so first and foremost, you need to see it as a place to interact with your customers and potential customers. Don’t approach Facebook with a marketing perspective. Approach it from a customer service or R&D perspective. Start with the relationship, understanding that because it’s a social medium, your sales may not come as a result of the direct action you take on your page. The sales will come as your fans’ friends SEE you interacting. What’s the most valuable marketing message? A personal referral. Facebook allows you to create those without forcing the issue.
- Establish your presence, and then cater your marketing accordingly. Once you know your strategy on your page, you’ll understand the best way to drive traffic. If Facebook works best for you as a customer service portal, then target your marketing to your customers, and encourage interaction around questions and issues with your products. Then use sponsored stories to show your customers’ great interactions to all of their friends.
- Focus long-term. GM was upset that they weren’t selling cars. But what if their goal was to establish relationships with current customers? While that’s more difficult to measure than click-thrus and sign-ups, it’s what’s going to lead to sales ten years from now, and twenty years after that.
In the end, I’m not sure that Facebook should be worried about the decision of a company who just a few years ago had to take a massive bail-out from the government to survive.