Does Facebook's New Direction Really Spell Gloom and Doom for Marketers?

January 25, 2018

This article first appeared in Marketing Dive.

Mark Zuckerberg's 2018 resolution and Facebook's subsequent News Feed change announcement are sending shockwaves through the digital advertising world.

As Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page on Jan. 4, "The world feels anxious and divided, and Facebook has a lot of work to do — whether it's protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent." Stemming from this, Facebook will start to show users more posts from friends and family and fewer from publishers and brands.

Although some are already portending doom and gloom for marketers, the reality will be a little less dramatic. Here are a few things that the industry can expect now that Facebook is focusing on a more quality and secure user experience (which, subtly, will require advertisers to pay more to reach desired audiences):

1. Feeds will be less cluttered

The industry has already noticed a significant decline in organic reach for brand posts, and focusing on friends and family will only continue this trend. Advertisers will have to experiment, identify what works and refine their marketing strategy accordingly to find the perfect mix of paid and organic. Do event photos work better than press releases? What do your users want to see in their Facebook feed? Advertisers will need to maintain a clear view of what's driving people to their brand.

2. However, ads may stand out more in a cleaner feed

With more content coming from users, high-quality, professional ads may pop in a way they don't today. In this case, the increased incentives will force brands to look at their ad offerings to make them more appealing, more engaging, and better suited to a people-first platform.

Less clickbait and attention-grabbing headlines create an opportunity for a brand's messaging to rise above the noise of baby pictures and travel stories.

3. Video: red-hot in 2018

Video represents the biggest opportunity for continued Facebook ad growth, with its new and engaging paid media formats like in-stream video ads. And, expect to see the growth of Facebook Live and Facebook Watch for organically reaching audiences with paid content versus organic posts.

Video is not just red-hot due to its massive popularity. Sixty-four percent of users are more likely to buy a product online after watching a video, according to data from Animoto. With that statistic alone, it's definitely time for advertisers to ramp up their video advertising if they haven't already.

4. Facebook Messenger will keep the conversation going

After a somewhat wobbly start, Facebook Messenger now offers concrete advertising solutions. With over 1.6 billion users, it's the most popular mobile messaging app in the world, and Facebook's News Feed changes won't affect the emerging advertising opportunities that Messenger presents.

Note that a majority of Messenger users opt to have push notifications turned on. Messenger ads can additionally perform better than email since there's greater opportunity for personalization and engagement.

Beyond the opportunity to expand the reach of paid ads, now businesses can use Messenger to engage in 1:1 personalized conversations with prospects and customers. For example, someone looking for a flight could click a few automated responses, such as "Where are you going?," and interact with a brand for a top-notch customer experience.

In sum: not to fret

Facebook Messenger is just the beginning. Thinking across channels, Google provides a similar capability with click-to-message ads that prompt SMS interactions with customers. Plus, we can expect to see Facebook expand advertising into WhatsApp in the near future. Lastly, companies can add a Facebook Messenger plug-in to their website that can serve as a direct customer service and lead generation portal.

Hey, Snapchat, Amazon, and LinkedIn — your turn to make a move.

As with all changes in the industry, advertisers who stay flexible and roll with the changes will be best equipped to benefit from them. My advice? Stay aware, refine strategy as needed, test and test again, and keep exploring new and meaningful ways to attract customers.

Wesley MacLaggan

Marin Software
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