[Video] Is Facebook Taking over the Internet?
Jessica Hubbard, Deputy Editor; 24 February 16
Over the past two years, social media giant Facebook has been making shrewd changes and additions to its wildly popular platform – some of them high profile and trumpeted to the media – whereas other adjustments have been noticeable only to digital marketers and social media specialists. So what is Facebook’s strategy, and what does it mean for marketers and business owners?
“It is quite simple: Facebook wants to be the internet,” explains Justin Spratt, Chief Growth Officer at digital marketing agency Quirk. “They don’t want people to go anywhere else.”
According to Spratt, this strategy has been most visible in two recent Facebook initiatives: #FreeBasics, which sees the company partnering with key telecommunications firms in certain countries to offer free internet to ‘a Facebook wall-garden of services’; and secondly, the focus on native content – pulling in news and video so that it is natively served and not redirected to other websites.
Craig Rodney, MD at communications firm Cerebra, adds that essentially, ‘Facebook’s content strategy is a revenue strategy’.
“Their revenue comes from having more people on the website, consuming more content, more often,” he says. “They can only make revenue when the content is consumed on Facebook which is why they’re working hard to make native content work better. The fewer pieces of content that drive consumers out of Facebook the greater their revenue…”
But while their strategy is crystal clear, the question of whether Facebook is successfully pushing out social media rivals such as YouTube and Twitter is more difficult to answer…
“It’s really not a simple ‘yes or no’,” says Erin McLuckie, senior digital strategist at Digital Republic. “There are pros and cons to each platform [for digital marketers]…”
She notes that Twitter is still a great platform for event-orientated and time sensitive campaigns and communication, particularly given the 140-character rule, whereas Facebook is more effective when punting longer form articles and in-depth insights.
On the revenue side, Spratt says that there is little evidence to suggest that Facebook’s ad unit spend is displacing Twitter or YouTube.
“….you must remember that video is not created equal,” he adds. “There are many formats and YouTube’s format (average of 3 minutes) doesn’t really compete with Facebook’s format (third party, average 30 seconds) yet. But the play is clearly to do so.”
He points out that Facebook also has ‘demographic issues’ – with the high value Millennials using Facebook less often and opting for new platforms such as Snapchat.
“So while numbers push ahead, the really lucrative markets are waning,” adds Spratt.
Rodney highlights that while Facebook does compete with Twitter, it ‘punishes’ YouTube videos by restricting their reach within Facebook – and making them look ‘ugly’ when posted.
“This encourages the user to load the video on Facebook instead of linking to YouTube,” he says. “If users favour Facebook, their post will look better and reach more people.”
Interestingly, McLuckie encourages marketers to utilise the Facebook video up-loader tool, particularly as it isn’t being ‘whittled down’ yet (like other content) so that only a percentage of your audience actually sees it. With Facebook’s video tool, all of your followers are exposed to the content, she says.
So what does this all mean for marketers and small business owners looking to leverage Facebook?
“I would focus most of my efforts on ‘Inbound Marketing’ (also known as Earned Media),” advises Spratt. “This involves providing useful information via blogposts, email (very high ROI if done well), Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook that is very shareable…if it is shared a lot, these platforms will allow it to fly.”
He adds that it is ‘very clear’ that digital media costs are increasing to almost untenable levels for most SMEs, ‘unless you are very niche’.
Rodney of Cerebra also points out that Facebook is becoming a ‘more advertiser focused option for brands’…
“But with the growing numbers of users on Facebook, it’s still critical to have a presence and be engaging with customers around activities such as customer service, support, and content,” he says. “The advice – which Mark Zuckerberg will be glad to hear me say – is that to succeed on Facebook you need to spend money!”