Following announcements from Facebook that they are going to limit overly promotional posts on newsfeeds, a report from Forrester says that brands might be wasting their time and money on networks like Facebook and Twitter. Analyst Nate Elliot, says that these changes make it even less likely that brands posts will be seen by their fans and that, in effect, the network will become full of display advertising.
For Forrester, brands will be better served if they stop making Facebook the centre of their marketing activity and instead focus on more niche networks and on using social tools on their own sites.
There is little new in this advice – Facebook is (and has always been) a difficult place for many brands to get right. Brands have invested considerable amounts of time and money on building audiences, but have not always focused on how or why they might have a sustainable relationship with this audience on this channel rather than any other. This behaviour leads to a situation where some brands spend even more time and money crafting the ‘perfect’ post – typically one that performs well against Facebook’s own metrics.
But in none of this are we really thinking about the audience, or the story, or questioning exactly what role a channel like Facebook or Twitter can play in the relationship between a brand and an audience. We’re just playing the game that Facebook has made for us – attracting audiences, writing posts, and using their analytics to measure success. It is only when the rules of these games change that brands step back and question why they are playing in the first place.
Facebook and Twitter are hard for brands to get right. They are not always the right channel. And rather than putting considerable time, effort and money into trying to make them work, brands should go back to basics. Think what we want to communicate, and to whom, and then to use the right channels for the right purpose. Sometimes this will involve channels like Facebook and Twitter, other times it won’t. But rather than blindly trying to make these channels work with endless streams of content, brands should let the message and the story guide what channels are used.
It’s not that this kind of thinking is new or different. But too often networks like Facebook and Twitter drive unusual behaviour in brands and the agencies they hire. Of course they have a role to play in the comms mix, and of course brands shouldn’t abandon them. But they probably are wasting money – trying to make Facebook and Twitter work for them, when other channels would be much better.