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Published 31 August 2012 06:41, Updated 05 September 2012 14:32
Looking for value: The marketing approach of grabbing attention and then displaying an offer doesn’t work in the social space Reuters
I was recently asked a question that gets to the heart of marketing in a time when social media, and the “big-market data” it creates, is preternaturally changing business models worldwide. The question was this: “If you could change Facebook today, what would you do?”
This is a big question with no simple answers. But it helps focus the mind on the challenges it faces.
The fortunes of Facebook have been discussed in the news media almost every day following its much-hyped sharemarket float. Most of the discussion and news has not been good for Facebook. The share price has been plummeting and people are now questioning its long-term value as an investment and a marketing platform.
It is the marketing challenge that Facebook needs to tackle head-on if it is to restore confidence. The issue is that advertising on Facebook is akin to doing a sales pitch at a birthday party – it’s just not cool. Facebook is a place to discuss topics with friends, not one to be confronted with brand marketing. For Mark Zuckerberg, that’s a big problem.
Facebook grew quickly because Zuckerberg and his team relentlessly focused on user experience. The hypothesis was that if the platform is enjoyable to use then current users will recruit new ones. In other words, the experience of the site and the people on it make it cool. They were right.
So how can the Facebook team make social marketing cool?
The problem and solution lie in the common complaints of current advertisers; Facebook display ads don’t seem to work well. Many brands say that the click-through rate on the normal Facebook display ad is very low. That tells us that the marketing approach of grabbing attention and then displaying an offer doesn’t work in the social space. What does work is offering something of value, where potential benefit provides message recipients a strong value proposition. The actual value proposition needs to be guaranteed; everyone needs to get it. And this means it needs to be delivered through a Facebook app.
The problem is that on the Facebook platform there are far too many pages and apps that do not offer value. Facebook must educate the market in what it takes to deliver value to users, then deliver it. Zuckerberg’s dream for Facebook was a more open world, so it’s ironic that its future may have to rest in much tighter control of the brand.
Mark Cameron is CEO of Working Three. You can follow Mark on Twitter @MarkRCameron