Hey! Brands! Your social media manager is now in charge of advertising!

1st Mar 2012 | Posted by Tony Lederer Tony Lederer's picture

Facebook held a major event in New York to announce several changes to its products for brands. These changes profoundly impact the role marketers can play on Facebook, and will form the next step in the evolution of marketing becoming more about holding intimate, relevant conversations with consumers, and less about pushing out the same message via multiple mass media channels.

So what are the changes? And what are the implications?
There are three changes that are going to have a biggest impact:

  1. Advertising will be incorporated into the main newsfeed as well as sitting on the side bar of users’ homepages
  2. New ad units will be derived from the brand’s Facebook page – i.e. what you post on your brand’s Facebook page will also form an ad unit that will be served out through newsfeeds like a normal status update
  3. Advertising will also be distributed via mobile platforms in the main newsfeed

In short, Facebook increasingly wants companies to develop distinct strategies for Facebook that start with their brand page, and doesn’t involve taking ads from other channels and plastering them on Facebook. The reward for brands is that they will be incorporated directly into the social activity happening on Facebook across all platforms - PCs, tablets, and phones - giving them a greater chance of joining or stimulating conversations amongst consumers no matter where they are or what they’re doing.
But this poses significant challenges for brands that aren’t used to thinking ‘socially’. It basically means that they won’t be able to utilize the scale of the audience on Facebook (845 million active users, from the last report I saw) without creating a lasting presence. They will have to build a page and devote time, energy, and financial resources to making it a rich, engaging social experience. Strategically, it will make little sense for brands to do quick media buys on Facebook without any longer term strategy to use the platform.
This is also raises some interesting issues for the structure of marketing teams because if the content you use to update your Facebook page is now your advertising creative, then your social media channel manager is now also your head of advertising strategy. Hypothetically.
From my perspective, these changes to Facebook put marketers who understand earned media (traditionally PR and communications professionals) at the top of the strategy hierarchy. The reason is simple: the more emphasis a brand puts on long term relationship building with consumers and less on short term campaigns, the greater rewards they will see. I would also argue that this is true beyond Facebook, but that’s a separate discussion!
The bottom line for the time being is that Facebook is shifting the model of advertising and this will create an imperative for brands to plan very differently if they want to make the most of the huge (and growing) audience available to them.
Do you agree? What do you think will be the other big implications? Do you think brands will wholeheartedly embrace this new paradigm? Leave comments or join us on Twitter to discuss further.


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