Facebook launched on the 4th of Feb 2004.
I was lucky enough to be an early adopter, and observe the evolution of the platform as it grew into what it is today. Facebook still plays a big part in my daily existence and continues to shape how I, and many others, interact with the world.
These days, even my grandparents interact on Facebook – nevermind the fact that they can’t surf the web or “use the Google machine.” This accessibility and simplicity is why Facebook remains the biggest social media platform to date.
Digital marketers have long struggled to leverage this powerful tool to reach their target market and discover new opportunities. Today, more than ever, modern digital marketers have to learn how to use the tool, or risk becoming a digital dinosaur.
Facebook brand pages only launched in 2007. (Before this, a number of brands started creating accounts as people due to the initial rapid adoption of social media as a marketing tool.)
When Facebook launched brand pages, many companies created promotional campaigns where users were encouraged to share the content or promotion in order to stand a chance to win.
Because Facebook did not make the data available, there were a lot of third party plugins being created to support these campaigns and ensure there were some kind of analytics to track how effective they were.
Along with third party plugins, bots were being developed to help pages grow their fan base and appear to be more prominent and attractive to users. Unfortunately, these were not real people and it did not generate authentic value, making it even harder to justify investment in the platform. During this period, it was accepted as best practice to never pay for a fan.
On March 1st 2012, Facebook introduced timeline, a powerful tool for brands to have a thorough social presence, kicking the social media revolution into full gear.
Facebook remains the biggest social media platform available to the modern marketer. It currently has over 1.6 billion active users, 22% of the earth’s total population.
Facebook advertising has evolved over the years, offering a multitude of different ad units, targeting options, buying criteria and more, making it an effective, but complex advertising medium.
In addition to the above, Facebook analytics have become incredibly robust, with the data used to help drive spend and marketing strategies, promoting continued investment in the platform.
With more and more users joining every day, Facebook offers rich, detailed data on various demographics. This is great for marketers, because it enables us to increase the relevance and therefore engagement of our marketing campaigns. As a mother, I regularly get served ads for children in the foundation phase, which is much more relevant and accurate than the “spray and pray” approach of traditional marketing.
However, despite the seemingly endless opportunities Facebook offers, it does come with its own set of challenges. Remember that fan-base marketers had to nurture, entertain and grow? Then came Edgerank, Facebook’s most brutal algorithm. It is Facebook’s way of monetising social media’s growing presence in digital marketing and engagement. It essentially forces marketers to pay to reach their audience on Facebook, or risk becoming one of the brands that only reach about 6% of their market without Edgerank. Therefore, organic reach and engagement is a thing of the past, and marketers must pay into an endless pit of investment to reach their audiences and stay relevant, with boosted posts and other ad units.
Marketing strategies are also vastly different from what they used to be in the early days. They now have to consider a number of elements to guide their social strategies:
Creating highly engaging content in the form of storytelling, live video, strong imagery and more is used to drive awareness, education, and engagement. Today, it’s all about engagement rather than “shares” and “likes.”
Facebook introduced business manager, which allows marketers to select a few different objectives. For example:
This entails promoting your page to grow your audience. (Looks a lot like buying likes, right?)
My personal favorite is the targeting options. It’s an eerie thought, but Facebook knows us better than we know ourselves sometimes, and can help us reach our exact target market no matter who they are or where they are in the world.
There are various ad formats available, such as a mobile view and the latest addition focused on Instagram ad units.
One particular ad format that has shot up in terms of effectiveness due to the way Facebook has evolved is video ads.
Videos now automatically start playing when users scroll through their timelines, making video the most engaging ad format. Some users can’t resist watching a video once it’s begun.
One of the most interesting aspects of Facebook marketing is the amount of robust data that can keep a digital marketer wrapped up for days. This includes different actions and even reactions to each post, page reach, likes, views, and more that can give a strong indication as to where to find more opportunities for a company.
And if that wasn’t enough, you can add a pixel to your own site, which allows you to track conversions from the click to the close.
Where to from here?
Here are the major areas of Facebook’s focus:
- Video: As you’ve probably guessed, the most important trend right now is video. Video-based marketing and services are growing at a rapid rate and Facebook is at the forefront of this development by creating the first ever 3-D/360 film called Here and Now. They’ve also launched live video streaming and soon, this service will become one of the primary video platforms. We are already seeing the impact on TV viewership numbers, with more and more people turning to online entertainment.
- Internet access: Another important note is Facebook’s Free Basics project, which aims to provide internet access to everyone within the next couple of years. Previously known as Internet.org, this project is a power move, despite being heavily criticised due to its ambitious scope.
- 10-year roadmap: Facebook’s 10-year project roadmap includes some pretty impressive plans, with a few already implemented. Among them are some pretty formidable executions including virtual reality and advanced artificial intelligence.
- Continued growth: As Facebook grows, the knowledge and insight marketers have on users deepens, along with the pool to market to. In fact, today we are seeing an unprecedented growth amongst the 65-year-old market which is a big indicator to Facebook’s reach – and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
How does it all fit in with marketing automation?
It’s a no-brainer – if you drive users to your website via Facebook after a very targeted advert, you know they are interested!
Marketing automation enables you, as a marketer, to grab that interest with both hands by creating a dedicated campaign group for Facebook users. This way, you can nurture them based on the information you already have on them.
The end result? Delivering hot leads to sales, and relevant, useful content to users – everyone wins.
Additionally, a marketing automation platform enables you to measure the success of each post you put out there. It answers that age old marketing question of what kind of content interest your users, and it directs your content team to focus on what works, and what generates the highest ROI.
Facebook may not the right choice for every brand right now, but if most modern marketers intend on staying relevant with their users, they’ll have to monitor the evolution of Facebook and take advantage of marketing automation solutions.
Because let’s face it – who doesn’t like social media?