Facebook Advertisers: Fanatics or Lunatics? That Is the Question

If You're Not Reaching Your Targeted Audience on Social Network, It's No One's Fault but Your Own

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Taddy Hall
Taddy Hall
George Santayana defined fanaticism as "redoubling your effort when you've forgotten your aim."

Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Given the steady stream of data detailing the impoverished performance of advertising on Facebook (see recent reports from comScore and Web Trends, among others), the important, unresolved question seems to be whether Facebook advertisers are fanatics or lunatics.

Just as I'll leave that question to qualified psychiatric professionals, advertisers would be advised to select the right people (and platforms) to help with their specific "jobs."

But criticizing Facebook for delivering poor ad performance is akin to blasting a hammer for poor performance inserting screws. You can bang away ineffectively for quite awhile, but is it really the hammer's fault?

Indeed, few hammer marketers position their tool as a fine turner of screws.

Facebook, however, is not so lily-white. Visitors to their site are greeted with the tease, "reach over 500 million people where they connect and share."

Let's just clarify the facts here. One thing you absolutely, positively will not achieve by advertising on Facebook, is to reach 500 million visitors. No way, no how.

It's a little hard to blame Facebook for collecting billions of dollars from wishful marketers, but both Facebook and its clients are missing the far bigger opportunity of using Facebook for what it's good at ... rather than hiring it to do what it's bad at.

To be clear, Facebook is a marvelous thing and a valuable tool in the marketer's arsenal.

Meteor Solutions has demonstrated over and over across sites as diverse as MTV, Red Bull, Liberty Mutual, CNN, and Campbell's Soup (and dozens more) that Facebook offers a fabulous place for consumers and marketers alike to share and engage.

Let me say this more explicitly, the essential activity on Facebook (and other leading social platforms) is sharing.

Meteor data reveals a virtuous cycle of influencers sharing content on Facebook and subsequent Social Visitors (referral traffic) clicking on content links, taking action on marketers' sites, and perpetuating the sharing graph. We consistently see sites generating 15%-30% of total traffic via sharing, and conversion rates are typically 2X-4X the rates for ad-sourced visitors.

Hire the right tool for the job. Google is a great place for advertisers -- which explains, in part why they generate 20X Facebook's revenues with about half of the traffic. Facebook, as the data shows, however, is a lousy place to advertise.

Conversely, Meteor data reveals that site visitors from ads on Google have relatively poor social value; i.e., visitors arriving to marketer sites via search (and paid ads generally) index very low in terms of propensity to share content and drive additional traffic and conversions.

Facebook (and other social platforms) and Google (and other search tools) are powerful when used appropriately. But in the business of building brands and driving sales, there's no room for either fanatics or lunatics, and you don't need to be Alfred Einstein to make sense of the facts.

Taddy Hall is chief operating officer of Meteor Solutions and former chief strategy officer for the Advertising Research Foundation.
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