Thursday, May 17, 2012

Facebook 's Got 99 Problems, And Advertising's One

For those of us who pay attention to social media news, we’ve all heard it – Facebook needs to figure out its advertising platform or else their advertisers will jump ship, just as GM announced it was this week. This is bad for Facebook because it will lose the $10 million in advertising revenue GM spent with Facebook last year, but it’s far worse because of the publicity this move is generating in the media. GM executives didn’t achieve the ROI they expected from Facebook. If a well-known brand like GM is spending a ton of dough and not seeing consumer impact, it will prompt other companies to second guess how they spend their marketing dollars, too.
From a consumer’s perspective, one might think that it doesn’t affect me if advertisers are opting out of Facebook’s platform, except that I may see fewer ads. The issue though, is that much like a PR agency’s success relies on client revenue and making sure we deliver results, so does Facebook rely on its clients. Although we want to believe that we, as the consumers, are its clients – we’re not. That role belongs to the advertisers that pay the social network’s bills. And as Forrester Analyst Nate Elliot blogged this week, companies across several industries are deciding that Facebook isn’t the best place to spend their social marketing budgets, regardless of its massive user base. As Nate states, if Facebook paid as much attention to its advertisers as it did to enhancing the end-user experience, it may not be in this pickle, right on the eve of its IPO on Friday. 
Facebook’s Mobile Experience
Even if Facebook figured out its advertising problem on desktops, there are still major concerns regarding its mobile platform. I don’t even recall when the last time I saw an ad on my Facebook mobile app was, let alone what it was promoting. Of course, for me it has more to do with the fact that I rarely use my Facebook app, due to its incredibly slow load times that GigaOm’s Kevin C. Tofel addressed in a post this week. For those who do use it regularly, what’s the last ad you saw in the app? Did you engage with it – do you even remember what company or product it was for? I can’t stress enough how much of an issue this is for Facebook and its advertisers, considering that users spend more time accessing Facebook via mobile apps per month than by the traditional website. It seems that Facebook makes a new advertising announcement about how it’s enhancing its platform every six months. Well, the next announcement desperately needs to address its mobile marketing strategy, and it needs to be better than sponsored stories. 
Fortune article on Thursday details how Facebook can collaborate better with Apple and Google, who manufacture the two most popular mobile operating systems. The article expresses concerns about Google integrating supposed Facebook competitor Google+ into its devices. Here’s why this doesn’t concern me – no one would care. It would probably get a lot attention from the tech press, some critics and some supporters. But this integration would follow in the footsteps of everything else in Google+’s short history: a lot of talk and no engagement. All these people would have Google+ easily accessible on their smart devices, but much like its 170 million users now, there would be little activity and engagement. Then again, maybe this mobile integration would prove me wrong and drive more usage out of its members. Google+ would still have to tackle the millions of mobile Apple consumers, and I don’t foresee Apple agreeing to Google+ integration on their devices. After all, they won’t even let me share a photo to Facebook directly from the iPhone photo app yet, which is incredibly frustrating, by the way.
Maybe Facebook’s IPO tomorrow will kick its mobile ad planning into high gear, since they’ll critically need to maintain current advertisers to remain profitable, as well as sign new ones. For now though, we’ll sit back and watch Zuckerberg fumble his TV interviews while the IPO hogs the tech media outlets tomorrow. Down the line, we’re hoping for big things from the Facebook mobile team. The number of Facebook end users is unparalleled to any other social network, so the advertising potential is there; it just needs to be capitalized on much better than it is currently. That's my PR thought for the day. 
A version of this post also appeared on prSPEAK, a blog by PAN Communications. 

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