6 Reasons Why Facebook Continues to Succeed

6 Reasons Why Facebook Continues to Succeed

Facebook

Is Facebook the most resilient brand in the world? It sure seems that way. Here is a business that has weathered one public relations storm after another in recent years, and yet the global business is getting stronger than ever. In the past couple of years alone, we’ve seen Facebook experience some serious threats, such as:

  • Widespread criticism that the platform tolerates hate groups.
  • Accusations that Facebook has been used as a tool for malicious parties to interfere with the election of public officials in the United States and internationally.
  • Anger over Facebook’s failure to contain egregious breaches of user privacy.
  • Speculation that Facebook’s internal culture is imploding.
  • Anxiety that Facebook exerts an unfair advantage over its competition and needs to be broken up.

What have I missed?

These, and many other concerns, have resulted in some concrete actions that normally would cause some serious problems for a business, such as:

  • An advertising boycott by a number of powerful brands in July.
  • CEO Mark Zuckerberg being hauled into public hearings to face a public grilling by Congress, most recently the week of July 27 over Facebook’s competitive practices.

And yet, in Facebook’s most recent quarterly earnings report, the world’s largest social media network reported:

  • $18.7 billion in revenue, up from $16.9 billion a year earlier and above analysts’ expectations of $17.34 billion.
  • Profit for the second quarter nearly doubling to $5.18 billion, or $1.80 a share, exceeding Wall Street estimates.
  • An increase in monthly active users to 2.7 billion, from 2.6 billion in the first quarter. More than three billion people now use at least one of Facebook’s products on a monthly basis.

Now look at Facebook’s stock price, rising year after year:

Facebook’s resilience has prompted many to ask, Why? Well, I can think of a number of reasons:

  1. Clearly, the negative PR does not speak for everyone.
  1. Facebook continues to enjoy an advantage of being the first major social media network to break through globally. When you gain a foothold on a market, it’s awfully hard for anyone to dislodge you.
  1. Facebook has stayed true to a fundamental brand promise of connecting people. If you want to stay connected with Aunt Mary in Topeka or your old college buddy Jim in Montana, Facebook delivers.
  1. It’s not the only social media network fraught with controversy over free speech versus fringe activities. Every major platform – TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and others – faces the same fundamental challenge Facebook does, and no one has anywhere near a perfect solution. Investors and advertisers understand this reality, and so long as social media platforms appeal to them, Facebook does, too.
  1. Facebook continues to make smart moves to expand its global reach, a recent example being its investment into Jio Platforms of India.
  1. The company is delivering on its 10-year growth plan unveiled in 2016, including continued investments in virtual reality.

Reason 6 above is especially important. Investors like to see businesses create a compelling growth plan and stick to it. Facebook has never lost sight of its own aspirations to grow globally and to use technology to connect people. As a result:

  • Facebook attracts more investors.
  • Those investors fuel the company’s expansion.
  • The company’s expansion attracts more users.
  • More users attract more advertisers. And advertisers are crucial to Facebook’s future.

My advice to advertisers:

  • If Facebook is delivering the audiences you want, continue to rely on Facebook as a crucial element of your game plan. Capitalize on new tools to reach your audience, such as Facebook’s recently unveiled ways to connect people and businesses on WhatsApp. If you work with an agency, ask them about how they’re using these tools to help you.
  • Be patient, and don’t let negative PR distract you (but if you’ve stuck with Facebook thus far, you probably know that already).
  • As with all social networks, assess your own tolerance for the risk versus reward of having a presence on Facebook. As I blogged recently, being on social media presents the possibility that your ads and organic content will appear alongside questionable content. At the same time, being on social also means benefitting from the surge in traffic on social media occurring in 2020. Bottom line: be vigilant (and your agency partner, if you have one, should be vigilant, too).
  • Keep a close watch on all the news affecting Facebook, especially Facebook’s ongoing issues with Congress. It’s important to understand the potential changes that legislation could have on Facebook. Being aware is always a good course of action.
  • Get comfortable living with the wild card in the deck: the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. The biggest impact the pandemic may have on Facebook is fluctuating advertising revenues from businesses looking for ways to reduce their ad spend as they react to uncertain economic conditions. But one thing is clear: the Facebook community itself is only getting bigger, and it probably will as people increase their usage of online platforms amid spikes in COVID-19 rates.

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we help businesses capitalize Facebook’s growth to build their brands. We can help you, too. Contact us to learn more.

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Businesses Balance Risk with Reward on Social Media

Businesses Balance Risk with Reward on Social Media

Facebook Social media YouTube

One of the more interesting aspects of the ongoing Facebook advertising boycott is the concern over brand safety. Advertising Age reports that boycotting advertisers want assurance that the ads they place on the Facebook News Feed will not appear next to objectionable content such as hate speech. And who can blame them? But advertisers may not get everything they want. And they may have to live with an ongoing reality: so long as your brand lives on social media, you will always need to manage risk (whether you advertise, manage organic content, or both) against the ROI of having a presence on the world’s most popular digital destinations.

Social Media Controversies

I’ve been following how brands have managed occasional controversies on social and have commented on them in posts such as “Twitter’s Troll Police Struggle to Separate Humans from Bots” and “Social Media Remains a Messy Place for Brands to Live.” Many of the issues I’ve been writing about remain today, and Facebook is not the only platform wrestling with them. They include:

  • The inherent tension that exists when businesses exist on platforms designed to give people and organizations an open forum. An open forum means that anyone can have an opinion, which means that fringe content will always make its way on to social.
  • The reality that malicious parties are actively looking for ways to game the platforms and disrupt them. Twitter is reeling from a major hack July 15 in which the accounts of high-profile individuals such as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk were hijacked as part of a Bitcoin scam. Of course, the bad guys out there are also going after brands’ websites, too, but on social media, your account is only as secure as the platform where you are renting space.
  • The difficulty of combating malicious content. As I discussed in a post about Twitter trying to combat trolls, social platforms continue to struggle with the fact that they can employ only so many people to monitor and combat inappropriate content. And when the platforms use automated tools to root out trolls, those tools make mistakes by overreaching and going after innocent accounts, too.

But brands simply cannot decide to ignore social media. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube are among the Top 20 most visited sites in the world according to Ahrefs. And as online traffic has surged across the board in 2020, businesses continue to succeed with social media advertising.

What You Should Do

So what’s the answer for brands wanting a safer experience? Well, there is no easy one. But:

  • Artificial intelligence is going to get better. Remember, we’re still in the early stages of AI’s development. As AI improves, social platforms are going to do a better job rooting out objectionable content.
  • Social platforms can and should be more transparent about how they monitor and react to objectionable content. It’s unrealistic for any social media platform to promise brands that their ads will never appear alongside offensive content. But according to Advertising Age, Facebook is figuring out how to more proactively report to brands how it monitors content and responds to flare-ups. This is a step in the right direction. It’s just not a good idea to leave advertisers in the dark. Being candid and including them in a solution goes a long way.

Advertisers should demand that social media platforms work with them to manage their brands. But social media more than ever will always be a risky place for brands to live. I suggest that businesses:

  • Have a strategy for how social media attracts and keeps customers both with advertising and organic content.
  • Measure success – but also measure your risk tolerance. Assign a numerical scale to assess the level of risk you are willing to accept on each platform and for various types of incidents ranging from security breaches to your content appearing alongside inappropriate content.
  • Monitor your ROI as well as incidents you experience. How much ROI are you getting? How frequent are the violations you experience? Does the ROI outweigh the costs of dealing with negatives? (Your mileage will vary.)
  • Keep applying pressure to the major social platforms to hold themselves accountable.

What have your experiences been on social media? I’d love to hear from you.

Contact True Interactive

Do you need help making decisions about advertising on social? Contact us.

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It’s Amazon Advertising’s Year — So Far

It’s Amazon Advertising’s Year — So Far

Amazon Facebook Google

Good news for Amazon. Bad news for Google. According to a new report from eMarketer, Amazon’s share of online advertising continues an upward trend. Google, by contrast, continues to lose marketshare. Read on to learn more.

The What

Amazon’s share of online advertising, which has been rising every year, will reach 9.5 percent in 2020, eMarketer says. Google’s share will drop to 29.4 percent, as Google reports its first-ever decline in advertising revenue since eMarketer began tracking advertising revenue in 2008. Meanwhile, Facebook’s share of online advertising is predicted to rise to 23.4 percent (note, however, that eMarketer published its analysis before an advertising boycott of Facebook took hold—those numbers will likely be re-evaluated).

The Why

Why is Amazon Advertising increasing its share, while Google sees its marketshare drop?

  • Amazon’s advertising unit, known as Amazon Advertising, is probably benefitting from people shifting their purchasing online during the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020. As we have blogged, Amazon without question became an especially attractive place to make purchases as shelter-in-place mandates took hold. And Amazon was prepared to help advertisers build their visibility during this surge, with a tool kit including products such as Sponsored Ads and Display Ads.
  • Meanwhile, eMarketer principal analyst at Insider Intelligence, Nicole Perrin, explains that “Google’s net US ad revenues will decline this year primarily because of a sharp pullback in travel advertiser spending, which in the past has been heavily concentrated on Google’s search ad products. Travel has been the hardest-hit industry during the pandemic, with the most extreme spending declines of any industry.”

What the News Means

The news creates some nice press for Amazon Advertising, but as we have blogged, Google’s ad business remains healthy and solid. And as eMarketer points out, Google is being hit by the economic downturn in travel. There is nothing inherently wrong with Google’s ad products, however.

In fact, Google continues to make its ad products better. We have blogged about some of its innovations lately:

Facebook likely has more to worry about than Google. An advertising boycott is gaining traction with big brands such as Unilever and Starbucks pulling their ad business because they believe Facebook is not doing enough to police hate speech, among other grievances. As reported by cnbc.com, the big names already responding to the #StopHateForProfit campaign have the potential to influence more companies to join the boycott.

Our Recommendations

We suggest that regardless of your platform of choice, businesses continue advertising online. Despite the turbulence among the big online ad players, we know that businesses that continue to have an online ad presence are best positioned for success.

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Do you need help sorting your digital ad presence? Contact True Interactive. We can help.

Facebook Harnesses the Power of Visual Storytelling

Facebook Harnesses the Power of Visual Storytelling

Facebook

Facebook has demonstrated time and again an uncanny ability to tap into popular interests. Most recently, the social behemoth, which continues to strengthen itself by launching new features and by making acquisitions, demonstrates why visual storytelling can be a powerful ally to brands and an important tool in their marketing toolbox. Read on to learn more:

Acquisition of GIPHY

Facebook’s interest in visual storytelling compelled it to buy Instagram back in 2012, and the company has never looked back. Its recent agreement to buy GIPHY, the popular platform of sharable animated images, or GIFs, and integrate it with Instagram, continues the trend. In an announcement made May 15, 2020, Instagram’s Vice President of Product Vishal Shah spoke to the reported $400 million GIPHY acquisition by saying the move will give users the opportunity to “find just the right way to express themselves.” A GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format, is a form of visual storytelling, of course. Like popular multimedia platform Snapchat, which has challenged users to be as entertaining as possible in 10 seconds or less, GIFs allow people to express themselves in a punchy, visual format.

Think about the applications here: Shah’s comment about personal expression applies to businesses, too. In fact, as Adweek points out, companies are already creating GIFs as “snackable” videos that consumers will feel inspired to share.

Look no further than PepsiCo, which in February rolled out thousands of GIFs (created using GIPHY) to promote Bubly, their new sparkling water brand. The GIFs, hundreds of which feature actor Neil Patrick Harris, were devised so that consumers looking to express that they’re “annoyed,” say, or that they feel like “dancing,” may happen upon one of the Bubly GIF ads and share it (whether they are aware it’s an ad or not). Bubly also partnered with Michael Bublé to create a series of clever GIFs.

The secret to GIFs is that they concisely express a mood that’s relatable, authentic, and shareable, as opposed to demonstrating a full narrative arc, as is done in the familiar ad format.

Getting Personal with Avatars

In the vein of encouraging people to express themselves, Facebook has also recently rolled out its Avatar feature for U.S. users (the feature was launched in other countries last year). As CNN reports, Facebook users can now personalize their responses with a cartoon avatar that looks like them, rather than relying solely on the now-familiar stable of emojis like the thumbs up or sad face. “With so many emotions and expressions to choose from, avatars let you react and engage more authentically with family and friends across the app,” Fidji Simo, the head of Facebook’s app, said in a post.

Again, the relevance doesn’t just apply to individuals. A January 2020 Digiday article discusses how companies are using avatars to engage with consumers. Brands like Cheetos, for example, have empowered users to interact with avatars created using the Genies app, allowing consumers to choose from design “wheels” of options to dress their avatars in Cheetos-inspired garb. Gucci, New Balance, and the NBA have also used Genies avatars in their marketing strategies.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Genies maintains their own avatar talent agency, and celebrities including Jennifer Lopez have their own official Genies, which companies can “hire” for their campaigns. Notably, it’s not just the high-powered brands that are working with avatars. As Digiday points out, avatars are also being tapped by smaller companies seeking cost-effective brand awareness campaigns with a custom feel.

Why Visual Storytelling Matters

The wisdom of Facebook’s embrace of visual storytelling is backed by statistics. According to Brain Rules, relevant images help us remember 65 percent of content, even days later. Most people are visual learners, as Digital Arts online points out. And Generation Z, also called the “visual-driven generation” because of their fondness for digital tools, is the largest population cohort in the United States. Born in the 2000s, this group is aging into a powerful demographic: surveys indicate that Gen Z is likely to make up 40 percent of all consumers in 2020.

In short, brands interested in meeting consumers where they are at are wise to appreciate the significance of visual storytelling.

Embracing Visual Storytelling

We urge all brands to embrace visual storytelling, and we’ve blogged often about how to do so:

  • Instagram is an essential platform to tell your brand’s story, as we note here.
  • Facebook livestreaming is gaining popularity in lieu of companies holding live events, as we discuss here.

Contact True Interactive

Bottom line: visual storytelling is hot! Take advantage of it now. And remember: we can help.

Research Shows That Having a Strong Social Media Presence Pays Off

Research Shows That Having a Strong Social Media Presence Pays Off

Facebook

Having a strong social media presence pays off for your brand – literally. That’s what research from Sprout Social shows. Sprout Social surveyed consumers and social marketers between February 28 and March 4. As reported in Mobile Marketer, the survey reveals:

  • Nine out of 10 people purchase from brands they follow on social media.
  • Seventy-five percent of people have increased their spend on companies they follow on social. That’s a 12 percent increase from 2019, a leap that’s particularly noteworthy given the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moving Forward

These findings validate what we wrote in a recent post: brands advertising on social media can connect with people who are willing to spend money even during the coronavirus era. Knowing this, how does a company move forward during such an unprecedented time? Here’s what we suggest you do:

  • Make sure you have a strong social media presence. As we’ve noted, use of social media has surged in the first quarter, with engagement on platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram spiking 40 percent or more — this despite, or even because of, the pandemic. In short, not only are people willing to spend on brands, there are more people on social, period. Brands that advertise on social will reach that larger audience.
  • Make sure your content is engaging, and that you engage with the audience. According to the Sprout Social report, 61 percent of consumers say that engagement with the audience is the brand characteristic that is most meaningful to them.
  • Complement your advertising with strong customer service. What does strong customer support look like now? Per Sprout Social, responding to people quickly is a strong barometer of customer service. As noted in Mobile Marketer, 40 percent of consumers expect brands to respond within the first hour of connecting through social media; and 79 percent expect a response in the first 24 hours.
  • Reach out to younger consumers in a way that matters most to them; that means a strong presence on YouTube and Instagram. Gen Z is the largest age cohort in the United States, and Millennials remain sizeable. It’s important that brands understand where Gen Zers spend their time. Right now, visual content is the key to Gen Zers’ hearts. The Sprout Social report reveals that social sharing platforms highlighting videos and photos, such as Google’s YouTube and Facebook’s Instagram, are becoming more and more popular with younger consumers. As reported in Mobile Marketer, “Almost three quarters (73%) of Generation Z said they plan to use Instagram more often, while 65% said they plan to spend more time on YouTube.” So it’s no surprise that Facebook just purchased Giphy and will integrate the business with Instagram.

Finally, make sure that you stay abreast of the various tools that are constantly made available to businesses to maximize the value of their social media spend. For instance, Google has adapted the YouTube masthead ad format for the era of connected TV.

Contact True Interactive

Eager to build a stronger social media presence? Contact us. We can help.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Facebook’s Growth Highlights Importance of Messenger

Facebook’s Growth Highlights Importance of Messenger

Advertising Facebook

Facebook is having a good year financially. In its recent third-quarter 2019 earnings announcement, the company bested analyst expectations for growth in not only revenue but also membership: monthly active users now number 2.45 billion. Facebook isn’t going anywhere even though its problems have brought upon itself the threat of government regulation and even break-up.

What is Facebook doing right? Well, here’s one answer: Messenger.

What Is Facebook Messenger?

Facebook Messenger is an app that people and businesses use to communicate with each other. Users can send messages, react to messages from others, and exchange photos, videos, and audio files. Facebook operates Messenger as a separate app. And it’s an extremely useful tool for brands, which can share all sorts of things, including ads. Through Facebook Messenger Ads, companies and users enjoy real-time text conversations—with the click of a button.

Currently, Facebook offers a number of different types of Messenger Ads:

  • Destination ads, which employ a lighter touch to engage customers. Rather than the usual “Shop Now” call to action, a “Send Message” button allows users to “get their feet wet,” as it were, and grow acquainted with a brand.
  • Sponsored messages, which deliver specially created messages (a sale coupon, for example) directly to a consumer’s inbox.
  • Home section ads, which crop up in the home dashboard of the messaging application and allow users and brands to engage in organic conversations.

Brands embracing tools like Messenger Ads stand to benefit: according to Facebook, 53 percent of users are more likely to make a purchase if they can message you. And because Facebook Messenger Ads don’t target non-brand-aware users, companies connect with people who have already interacted with their ads previously—an audience that is likely to be receptive (brands also gain points for not invasively reaching out to . . . everyone). Finally, it’s worth noting that Messenger Ads offer local targeting options, allowing brands to touch base with a specific audience based on where the business is located.

What Does Facebook Have to Say About Messenger?

During a recent conference call with investors, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg returned to the topic of Messenger, and its importance, several times. Some key points stand out:

  • Businesses are already using Messenger to drive sales. According to Sheryl Sandberg: “Messaging is one of the fastest growing areas for online communication–especially between businesses and people. We’ve seen businesses use Messenger to reach customers, generate new leads and even sell cars. For example, French auto manufacturer Renault used a combination of Instagram Stories and Click-to Messenger ads to drive sales of a limited-edition vehicle, the Captur Tokyo. Facebook was their only advertising channel, and over the span of 30 days, they sold 100 cars—20 directly through Messenger. This quarter we added a Click-to-Messenger feature in Stories so businesses can grab someone’s attention in Stories and then continue the conversation.”
  • Messenger and Stories Deliver a 1-2 Punch. As noted above, Renault is using Messenger in conjunction with Stories. In the investor earnings call, Zuckerberg and Sandberg underline how businesses can maximize the value of features like Messenger through this type of imaginative pairing. To make it easier for more brands to create ads for the Stories format, Facebook has launched customizable templates for Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. Advertisers can upload existing photos and videos, then augment them with different layout, color, and text options. The end result? More engaging Stories. And the Click-to-Messenger feature Sandberg references makes it possible for businesses to capture a user’s attention on Stories and then continue the conversation via Messenger.

What You Should Do

 When using Messenger as part of outreach:

  • Consider how Messenger will serve your brand in the context of the entire customer journey. Messenger Ads can spark interest, for example, and the Messenger the app can be a brilliant customer service tool.
  • Combine Messenger with Stories for an engaging and ultimately personal customer experience.

Contact True Interactive

Want to learn more about Messenger and how it will elevate your outreach? Contact us.

 

Facebook Shares an Advertising Roadmap for 2019

Facebook Shares an Advertising Roadmap for 2019

Facebook

Call it was the meltdown that wasn’t.

As Facebook prepared to announce its quarterly earnings January 30, there was a lot of public speculation that its scandal-ridden year might finally scare away advertisers and members.

The doubters were wrong.

Here’s what Facebook announced:

  • A 9-percent year-over-year increase in monthly active users, with 2.32 billion as of December 31, 2018.

  • Fourth-quarter revenues of $16.9 billion, up 30 percent year-over-year. That number beat Wall Street’s expectations of $16.4 billion.

Facebook is not only weathering months of data-privacy scandals, it is actually getting stronger. At True Interactive, we’ve shared our concerns about Facebook’s scandals and their possible impact on advertisers. We still think it’s important that advertisers watch Facebook closely. The threat of government regulation looms large. The number of fake and duplicate accounts are on the rise, by Facebook’s own admission (116 million fake accounts and 255 million duplicate accounts exist on the site). But advertisers should also be aware of some other numbers:

  • 93 percent of Facebook’s advertising revenue comes from mobile.
  • 500 million people use Instagram Stories daily.

  • 2 million advertisers are now focusing on Stories.

Stories play a big part in Facebook’s growth plans for 2019, which Mark Zuckerberg published in a Facebook post. I have excerpted some highlights and used boldface to emphasize some points that jump out at me:

Messaging is the area that’s growing the most quickly, and this year people are going to feel these apps becoming the center of their social experience in more ways. We’ll roll out payments on WhatsApp in some more countries. Private sharing in groups and stories will become more central to the experience. We’re going to onboard millions of more businesses that people can interact with.

On Facebook, I also expect this to be the year where Watch becomes more mainstream. There are now 400 million people who use it every month, and people spend on average over 20 minutes on Watch daily. This means we’re finding ways for video to grow outside of News Feed so it doesn’t displace the social interactions that people primarily come to our services for.

In Instagram, one of the areas I’m most excited about this year is commerce and shopping. There’s a lot of natural activity happening here, and this year I expect us to deliver some qualitatively new experiences around that.

Longer term, I remain very focused on building technology that brings people together in new ways, including through AR and VR. I’m looking forward to Oculus Quest shipping this spring — the feedback there so far has been very positive.

The numbers tell me this:

  • Advertisers need to understand how to capitalize on messaging. In September I wrote an Adweek column about Facebook monetizing WhatsApp. Clearly, Facebook is going full steam ahead here.
  • If you aren’t using Stories, you’re behind. Stories are now table stakes for brand building on Facebook’s platform, which includes Instagram Stories.
  • Figure out how Facebook Watch plays into your strategy. So far adoption numbers are underwhelming. But these are early days. The success of Facebook Live shows that Facebook knows how to make video a branding platform.
  • Integrate your Instagram with commerce. Brands are getting better at giving users compelling reasons to stop scrolling and buy. Expect new features to make social shopping more of an experience.
  • Augmented reality and virtual reality are branding plays for forward-thinking businesses, but AR and VR still have a long way to go.

Facebook is not as weak as its doubters said it was. Neither is Facebook as powerful as some would have you think. The company has issues. It’s not the cool place for Gen Z to hang out. A potential recession coming up could take a bite out of its advertising revenues. And as I mentioned, regulation is a constant threat. But Facebook remains a strong platform for advertisers with exciting features worth embracing. For more insight into how to succeed with digital media, including Facebook, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.