$137.8B U.S. ad spend for top 200 advertisers
Over the years, I've really felt the potential of Facebook as a marketing platform. The first time was on the day Facebook opened its New York office and signaled to Madison Avenue that it was serious about developing an advertising model. That day, I was in its new office to talk to some pharmaceutical executives about Facebook. Facebook was fresh to them, and they were wide-eyed hearing Facebook executives and me talking about social influence marketing.
Fast forward to September 2011, when I demoed real-time marketing on Facebook to board members of a Fortune 50 company, triggering an actual campaign in front of them. They couldn't believe that a marketing campaign could be created and launched in a matter of minutes, reaching millions of people and based on insights gleaned a few minutes earlier.
Then in 2012, my team and I created a new agency, brand and Facebook partnership model to both define the brand for social and to execute content in real time. It made all of us involved truly appreciate the new forms of creativity that the platform allows and the fresh thinking you get when you bring different people in a room together (Facebook later branded that model "Facebook Garages").
At each of these points, I felt that there was something extremely powerful about Facebook -- more powerful than I was grasping myself. With Facebook's blockbuster earnings and its announcements at F8, this feeling is only further strengthened. Here's what I believe Facebook is doing really well and what it can change so that marketers like me keep getting blown away by the potential.
What Facebook has done well:
The shift to mobile has been extraordinary. While it may have been a little late in pivoting, once it did, Facebook did so with gusto (59% of its advertising revenue came from mobile in the last quarter). Facebook also recognized that a second pivot was required -- to mobility and niche applications. The development of Paper, Messenger and Camera was the first manifestation of this. The second was the acquisition of What'sApp and, like Instagram, the smart proclamation that there's no rush to monetize the platform.
Establishing credibility among advertisers around the world. No platform has established as much marketing credibility in as short a period as Facebook has. Barring minor public relations challenges -- as the one with GM when it chose not to advertise on the platform for a short period -- by and large, Facebook has very quickly (and deservedly, according to most) won the hearts and minds of advertisers everywhere. Google is probably the only other online platform that carries as much credibility as Facebook does today. Facebook has done this successfully in a shorter time period and on a platform that has been changing more dramatically as well.
What Facebook must change quickly:
End the fake metrics. The same discipline that is used to kill product features should be applied to its metrics for brands as well. Facebook should remove page-like counts from brand pages immediately. They're not relevant and are tied to a Facebook philosophy from another era. Similarly, Facebook should make a definitive decision on how much organic reach to allow and consistently apply it everywhere -- not allowing for any ambiguity or variability. Instead, Facebook should double down on the right metrics and help brands truly measure the advertising impact on offline sales around the world.
Share user data. Facebook is sitting on a gold mine of data that can and should be shared (anonymously) with other organizations, just as Twitter does. Sharing of the data more quickly and more expansively will help individuals, institutions, governments, human rights groups and corporations learn, understand, innovate, create and more. It'll move humanity forward. Not to mention that it'll help marketers create advertising that consumers care deeply about. It's time to open up Facebook data in new, imaginative and trusted ways (protecting private information fiercely). The visualization APIs for media recently announced is a small step in the right direction.
Encourage new forms of creativity. What I've always loved about Facebook is that it has redefined what creativity can be. As Facebook matures and takes more serious steps into the realm of video, it should help define what video creativity means on the platform. My belief is that it's something different than television advertising or even YouTube creativity -- so help us marketers figure that out so we can do justice to the platform, to user expectations and to our brands as well. The work with Ace Metrix is just a baby step forward.
The next decade will be a fascinating one for Facebook and for all of us who continue to care deeply about the company. I hope Facebook continues to build on its strengths, while changing what needs to be changed to benefit not only its users but other stakeholders, like marketers. If it keeps evolving for marketers the way it evolves for consumers, soon it won't be just the most powerful social network in the world but the most powerful marketing platform as well.