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Forrester Advises Brands to Stop Using Facebook

Technology researchers at Forrester have told advertisers to stop using Facebook if they want to build social relationships with their customers in its latest report Social Relationship Strategies That Work. The news comes following the social network’s announcement that it’s to reduce the organic reach for promotional posts from January 2015.

Forrester’s Nate Elliot advises that instead, brands look to smaller social networks to advertise as they don’t have as many users and have less advertisers. He also advises that brands utilise social tools on their websites in order to build relationships with consumers and expand their reach.

Mr Elliot further stated that brands have been wasting “significant financial, technological, and human resources on social networks that don’t deliver value”. Facebook said in its Friday announcement that brands using promotional posts “will see a significant decrease in distribution.

“It’s not as if marketers could count on much organic reach or engagement anyway. Ogilvy reported that in February 2014 large brands’ Facebook posts reached just 2% of their fans (a number that was falling by .5% per month). And earlier this year a Forrester study showed that on average, only .07% of top brands’ Facebook fans interact with each of their posts. But Facebook’s latest announcement will certainly make matters worse,” Mr Elliot said in a blog post.

Forrester Advice

He goes on to list some of the strategies that can be adopted by marketers to help them to get social without spending a lot on advertising. Firstly, he advises marketers to add social relationship tools to the sites they work with. This is backed by Forrester’s 2015 social predictions on the increasing importance of branded communities. According to the report, visitors that want to stay in touch with a brand are “3 times more likely to visit your site as to engage with you on Facebook.”

The researchers also warn brands to stop putting Facebook at the centre of marketing efforts as a survey showed that customers that want to remain in touch are almost twice as likely to sign up for email newsletters, which, as Mr Elliot points out, are 90% certain to be delivered as opposed to the 2% reach that Facebook allows.

Email does of course remain one of the most effective ways to connect with customers. However, it doesn’t really offer the same convenience as social media; newsletters are often sent from a no-reply address and whilst it’s hugely effective as a marketing tool, it’s not really building the same “social relationships” that Forrester says we should be.

Facebook Goes Google?

Mr Elliot goes on to say that it’s likely by 2015 that advertisers will stop obsessing over Facebook and come to look at it as a similar ad platform to Google. He said that it’s unlikely brands will stop spending on advertising altogether, but they will stop viewing it as a social medium.

He adds: “Let’s be clear: We’re not predicting the demise of Facebook. After all, the site offers about one-third of all the display ad impressions online. But Facebook’s decade of dominance in social marketing is ending … Facebook will become nothing but a repository for display ads.”

He further states that brands will use the social networks as a companion to email marketing and they will become a tool for customer relationship management.

Informational Works, Products Don’t

According to Liz Gross, writing for Social Media Today, it’s likely that the winners in the future will be those which use Facebook for informational marketing, whilst those who use the site to sell products through will be hurt by the reduction of reach for promotional posts.

“If you are on Facebook for the sole purpose of selling products or services, and you’re unable to offer any content that is instructional, useful, or entertaining—you should be very concerned about this news. If you don’t fall into that category, it’s likely business as usual for you … until the next big announcement from Facebook,” she says.

In fact, it’s likely that if brands leave Facebook for advertising and concentrate on more effective advertising platforms, then there will essentially be more chance of an increased reach for content marketers.

The Drum: Forrester is Wrong

Jerry Daykin, writing for The Drum, says that whilst Forrester’s general argument is correct, its conclusion is not. “Forrester is right that marketers should be wary of the emperor’s new clothes of social marketing, but there’s never been a better time to invest in Facebook as a digital platform. The same can be said for YouTube, Twitter and the other big players able to offer brands meaningful scale,” he says.

He says that brands that devote a lot of time to managing an organic community on Facebook are indeed wasting their time. Whilst in the past brands allocated a relatively small portion of overall marketing budgets on the social platform, this is no longer the case thanks to the rich media options the site now offers. This means that brands now have a much bigger opportunity to get their ads in front of a targeting audience that could reach millions of consumers.

“Social media platforms can offer rapid, scalable reach, detailed targeting and often even frequency capping which is a TV planner’s dream,” he says. However, he warns that brands also need to take a common sense approach and make social work by the same rules as traditional marketing channels. Then, he continues, it’s time to begin exploring the differences and looking to exploit personalised content at scale, storytelling opportunities and deeper engagement.

I would tend to agree with him. Whilst Forrester is a respected researcher, it does also seem to have had it in for Facebook for some time now. Social media is still really in its infancy when it comes to competing against more tried and tested advertising models, but Facebook does have powerful options for targeting and remarketing and is becoming increasingly sophisticated. It’s not easy to gain organic reach on the site, that’s something that’s common knowledge amongst marketers, but it does offer opportunities that the other social networks, as yet, don’t.

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