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Advertising is to Facebook as alcohol is to yeast.

Advertising is to Facebook as alcohol is to yeast.

I work on brands for whom Facebook is an 80:20 (perhaps even 90:10) earned:paid channel.

I work on two brands in particular, both of which have six figure page likes, both of which view Facebook in a multi-channel context, both of which derive over 20% of their annual website traffic from Facebook.

That Facebook traffic is earned the hard way, both in and between campaigns, via a programme of content that is created to be a welcome diversion for the people into whose news feeds the links are served.

The earned website traffic is reward for an earned Facebook reputation for content that repeatedly is just that, a welcome diversion.

But all that earning is about to get more difficult.

Facebook wants brands to pay rather than earn.

And so it’s making the paying easier and the earning harder.

It is going to announce a range of new ad formats at its conference next week some of which, from an advertiser’s point of view, are good formats.

You’ll be able to create ads from wall posts.

And you’ll be able to target these ads at people who’ve liked your page but who haven’t seen the post organically. It’s a paid/earned hybrid format.

So they’ve upped the quality of their advertising formats. Great.

They’re also upping the quantity. Not so great.

They’re upping the quantity to the point that already one of the main Facebook blogs is questioning their wisdom.

“Featured” ads from brands that you’ve liked started appearing in news feeds in January.

Liking a page is an opt-in of sorts. But I doubt that many people see it as an opt-in to ads in their news feeds.

Ads in social spaces will always struggle to be a welcome diversion.

The All Facebook link above shows an example where two of the top three stories in a user’s news feeds were ads.

Two of the top three!

That is pretty far from my definition of a welcome diversion.

I worry that advertising is to Facebook what alcohol is to yeast.

Brewers use yeast to convert sugar into alcohol. For brewers this is an elegant solution because when the alcohol reaches the desired concentration it kills the yeast that produced it thus preventing further alcohol production.

Spamming people into leaving the platform is not an elegant solution for Facebook.

When the concentration of advertising reaches a certain level it might kill the platform that produced it.

It’s not a good situation for users.

And it’s not a good situation for 80:20 earned:paid brands either.

Goodbye, pure Facebook Edgerank organic tactics. Hello, pay-through-your-nostrils-rank!

These brands either can’t or won’t up their Facebook spend to compensate for the reduction in organic reach.

In fact, what’s the point of having a page if it ceases to be a platform for a decent level of organic reach?

All stakeholders should heed this warning from Emerging Spaces…

We believe that Facebook is reducing the opportunity for companies to earn reach and engagement from their Pages. In the longer term, brands who rely on their Facebook presence to communicate with their audiences freely and for free may find themselves in trouble. As things currently stand, all their users belong to Facebook.

I strongly suspect that I’m not the only planner working on future-proof earned reach strategies for brands that don’t include Facebook.


Related post : Tesco, the cheesemaker, Facebook and Google+.


    1. phil

      Thanks Tom. Always appreciate it when someone takes the time to leave a comment. Had a look at your blog and see that you’ve moved to Amsterdam. My impression is that the ad scene over there is even more of a village than it is in London. If you bump into Gio Cucchi or Lee Hempstock, say hi from me.

      1. tom

        Hey! I have indeed. Something that has killed my blogging efforts stone dead. Seems I now have a shit ton of work to do! It is very much a tiny village, I will keep my ears open for those names.

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