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Misguided Marketing: How Do You Get the Most Value from Facebook?

When your marketing campaign fails to deliver value, who’s to blame – the marketer or the platform? The answer could fall into both camps.

Marketers who concentrate more on the creative than the target audience could get a lot of likes but very little return on investment. Likewise, putting more focus on the platform tends to make customers feel detached and uninterested in the same stale, boring ad.

So what’s a marketer to do?

A recent Forrester research survey asked just such a question: “How satisfied are you with the business value your company has achieved by using [each of the following] marketing channels?”

With 1 being “very dissatisfied” and 5 being “very satisfied,” the results fell mostly into the average category, with a few notable exceptions. What’s most important to note is which marketing platform was at the very bottom – Facebook.

media channel business value

Facebook marketing scores at the bottom of the list when it comes to measuring value.

Granted, a .30% difference isn’t a drastic change, but it still begs the question: Why is this happening? And more importantly, what can we do about it?

Why Is This Happening?

To help answer the first question, Forrester’s own Nate Elliott surmised two key reasons:

  1. Facebook doesn’t truly drive the engagement that it claims to. Although anyone who “Likes” a brand page automatically opts in to receive messages from that brand, Elliott notes that, on average, Facebook shows “each brand’s posts to [only] 16% of its fans.” That’s an awful lot of missed opportunities.
  2. Facebook uses very little of its storehouse of collected social data to target the right people with the right ads. This means marketers get little ROI for display ads and can (and do) get better results on other networks.

The Fault Lies with Both Groups

Both the platform and the marketer are to blame for the lack of value. The platform is responsible because, at its core, Facebook was never really built for advertising. It was made to facilitate interactions and communication. Once major brands started seeing discussions taking place, they latched on, and Facebook had to change its focus.

Right now, it’s treading a very delicate balance between being a social network and being an ad network, trying desperately to juggle both to each one’s satisfaction, and being successful at neither.

Furthermore, in its drive to monetize “big data,” it throws up some vague advertising guidelines, false promises, and hopes for the best. There’s no clear statement on which types of advertisers would benefit most from the program or if there are any prerequisites (sites with X number of likes and Y number of fans).

advertise on facebook

There are over 15 million brands on Facebook. Why are there only two success stories being featured?

Marketers Aren’t Off the Hook

This exact same strategy was played early on when Google AdWords entered the scene years ago. The “throw money at it and hope people stick around” method gets less and less popular the more choices people have. Now they can read reviews (the top position on the chart), ask a friend, sign up for the newsletter, and comparison shop.

That means companies can no longer capture and hold attention in the traditional broadcast sense. They need to start communicating with customers and discussing – answering issues, sharing entertaining tidbits, asking questions, and getting involved.

For many marketers, especially those not seeing a good return on their investment in Facebook, there’s a big disconnect between the ad they place, the audience they target, and the landing page they direct them to. Facebook is, at its core, a social machine. Therefore, the ad has to match the platform. It doesn’t work for the marketer to try to wrangle the social machine into something it’s not.

So, should you abandon Facebook as an advertising channel?

Absolutely not.

Never in the history of the web has one company been able to gather so much data from willing customers and leverage it to its fullest extent. But as a company and a brand, it’s still suffering some growing pains. It’s like a clumsy toddler taking its first awkward steps. Marketers who get results from a wobbly system like this are the ones who match and merge the platform with the message.

Sure, this might take some creative thinking, but that’s where advertisers shine!

What Can We Do about It?

No matter what type of ad you choose, there are a few rules to follow to get the most out of it, on Facebook and elsewhere:

Keep Status Updates Simple – You don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you produce content. A single status update gets more engagement than a status with a link, or a link with a thumbnail, according to retail studies.

avoid complicated wall posts

Even if you think no one is listening, a simple question can be all it takes to ignite some discussion. For example, if you are a personal trainer, you could post workout ideas regularly, but your Facebook fans also might like:

  • Before/after photos or success stories of other clients
  • Healthy, easy-to-make recipes
  • A music playlist for their next run
  • Snack ideas for the midday work slump
  • How to work out stubborn muscle soreness from doing too much too soon

work it out facebook post

Work-it-Out gym regularly posts healthy recipes on its Facebook page.

Realize There Is Always Room for Improvement – Few companies are measuring their social media engagement levels. Do you know the impact your ads are having and if they are reaching the people you want to reach?

Tools like SproutSocial can help you measure which posts get the highest levels of participation and sharing (and optionally segment social profiles into different groups), so you’ll better understand who responds to what.

simplified facebook analytics

And sometimes businesses make the mistake of either getting too personal with their fans or selling too much. There are some topics that are always fun to share, though, including:

  • Antics of kids and/or pets
  • Beautiful places
  • Unique people and their stories of triumph
  • Memorable quotes
  • Trivia/fun facts

Know What Adds Value – A list of features and benefits does not add value. What adds value is the kind of results the customer will get from using the product/service. When they can picture themselves using your product without you even saying a single word, you’ve already sold them on it.

One of the best performing engagement tools is a money-off coupon. It’s just the nudge some people need to try something for the first time:

engagement peak

Notice how low the word “sale” ranks on this chart.

And if you’ve tried these points and still aren’t getting the kind of response you’ve hoped for, take heart. Even the top brands on Facebook have an average 0.5% engagement level. There may be some awkward silence at first, but in time, as you continue to deliver value and reach out to people, they’ll warm up and respond with ideas, feedback, suggestions, and discussion that will make all of your marketing efforts go much smoother.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Have you had good results advertising on Facebook? Or are a few “bad apple” marketers spoiling it for the rest? Share your thoughts and opinions below!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!

  1. Usually social media works well for advertising, depending how your company advertises.
    The post has to be engaging, and focus who your audience is. The post has to be fun to share and interesting for the target audience

  2. what about Google +? any link that is posted within a status is do follow, and there is also a strong correlation between +1’s and higher page rank. Another great thing about google is that you can post much longer status, you can actually turn one into a blog post. I am interested to see what will happen to Google+ in the next year or so.

    great article by the way!

    • Google+ was just slightly above Facebook according to the chart — but I agree, if you’re trying to self-promote all the time on G+, you’re not going to get as good of a reaction (or conversion rate) than if you added posts with real value in them.

      • Hi Sherice,

        I always thought Facebook had an edge over G+ in terms of cost effectiveness and conversions due to demographics and stuff.

  3. I think the data you gave on the post engagement is wrong, time and time again pictures have been seen to have the most engagement when it comes to an audience, on the point of facebook being an interaction platform, that’s very true so the whole idea of conventional advertising wouldn’t work in this case because brands have to leverage the crowd in different ways

    • Sharon McPherson Dec 07, 2013 at 5:54 am

      While it may have been true in the past that photos got the most engagement, that metric seems to have shifted considerably over the last 6 months. Most of the page managers/owners I hear from, are finding that they are increasingly seeing more engagement with short text updates and linking to articles that lead “fans” off the Facebook website.

      And with Facebook’s recent announcement that it is changing the way it ranked content in the News Feed we can expect that trend to continue.

      “Starting soon, we’ll be doing a better job of distinguishing between a high quality article on a website versus a meme photo hosted somewhere other than Facebook when people click on those stories on mobile. This means that high quality articles you or others read may show up a bit more prominently in your News Feed, and meme photos may show up a bit less prominently.”

  4. Now I know that I need to stick with posting status updates to keep the users engaged in the content. I’ve been predominantly using this technique so far and it works great for me.

    Hope it does well for the rest of you. So keep updating your status with engaging content! :)

  5. Great article, but a special thanks has to go to Sharon McPherson as I hadn’t actually heard of Facebook’s new feed changes until reading this, so this is a great help to me

  6. Thanks for the great info. I am always trying to come up with new ideas to engage my clients. You just gave me a few!

  7. One thing about Facebook advertising is that it is cheaper than Google, even though not that targetted

  8. Google + is better than Facebook right now, I thought its the other way around. Great article by the way…

  9. google = button hard to add

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  11. Deborah Anderson Dec 15, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Interesting results from the survey. Many of these confirmed what some of use were theorizing. This is very helpful and gives direction to those scratching their heads and wondering “what happened?”

  12. Great guide on Facebook :)

  13. Great article! But I’m also wondering about the picture vs single status and everything else statistics… in my own experience, it’s more the opposite way. And I’ve also heard that pictures were showing more engagements from the followers than single status… Could you confirm that info?


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