What's Holding Back Ad Growth on Facebook? Marketers.

A Brand's Media Dollars Must Be Managed in Tandem With Its Facebook Community

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Facebook exceeded expectations on Wall Street when it announced its earnings for the third quarter. Still, there's talk about what's holding back stronger ad growth. Many look inside Facebook for culprits that include everything from issues with monetizing mobile advertising to a lack of unified metrics.

There is a deeper issue at work outside of Facebook, however. For advertising to grow more rapidly on Facebook, the people who manage a brand's media dollars must work together with those who manage a brand's Facebook community.

In the past, it was acceptable for the media-buying team to work in a relative silo from other departments or agencies. They might check periodically with PR to understand upcoming initiatives and plan ahead against new brand strategies or goals. But otherwise the media buyers focused on their objectives (be they brand or conversion goals) and had little interaction with other teams. The dirty secret is that this was not always the worst thing, digitally speaking. Things divided up nicely. E-mail, search, affiliate and performance display were the responsibility of the "acquisition" group, while brand display, social and partnerships tended to fall under the "brand" group.

The reality was that no single channel forced cooperation. But Facebook has forever changed the playing field. It is the first platform to demand that media and brand teams work in tandem, moving toward an emphasis on user engagement versus simply encouraging a click.

With innovative products such as Sponsored Stories and the Facebook Exchange driving referral traffic, increasing engagement and enhancing user experiences, it is more important than ever for brands and their agencies to be smarter and more strategic. Marketers and agencies must embrace a formula for success that will result in a fruitful social collaboration. They must:

Agree on one technology for managing Facebook presence. A brand should employ one automated technology platform to optimize and measure success across advertising and a brand's Facebook page. The tool will help both brand/social and media teams mine meaningful insights that can help formulate one collective strategy. For instance, media teams -- alerted by the tool to high-performing content within a brand's social communities -- can use this content within ad units to help draw more fans to the page.

Create shared objectives. Each team needs to demonstrate how its efforts contribute to meeting the brand's overarching objective. It's no longer sufficient for the media team to demonstrate how its work has solely acquired new customers, or for the brand team to prove how its success in engaging loyal fans translates into customer acquisition. The two need to intertwine; paid metrics must become a critical component of growth and engagement. In turn, this engagement will have a direct correlation with what is most important -- business impact.

Rethink how you define success. Media teams are typically focused on maximizing efficiency, whereas brand teams are concentrated on enhancing favorability. The trick is to recognize that success on the Facebook platform requires marketers to have goals that take engagement into account and that are often blended with conversion goals.

Facebook has become a crowded place, and brands cannot be certain that content they post to their pages will be seen by their fans. Paid media can help, and any significant growth on Facebook will be hard to achieve without it. Of course, marketers must also invest in great content and community best practices to keep people interested and engaged. Approaching Facebook solely as a vehicle for driving more fans, with no strategy for keeping them engaged, is not a roadmap for success. That's why it's time to rethink the way that content, community and advertising are aligned for successful Facebook marketing. Only when the industry sees more effective collaboration between these teams will Facebook advertising reach its real potential.

Jared Belsky is Executive Vice President, 360i.
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