Whether in response to hate speech, fake news or election manipulation, or in support of social justice, advertisers have a unique opportunity to examine their reliance on Facebook. It’s not just Facebook’s hate speech policies that are questionable. The platform was already known for false metrics and opaque practices on the advertiser side, which laid the groundwork for the growing brand boycott.
How did we get so reliant on Facebook? If you entered the ad world before 2005—and there are still many of us left—you were likely taught that sufficient reach times sufficient frequency equals a good campaign.
We now know that data strategy, measurement strategy, A/B testing and many other practices make for great results, but not everyone uses these tools. Facebook, though, masterfully blends newer practices including these with what advertising veterans love—huge reach, the ability to spend a lot of money in one place and a big brand name.
Until now. What can we do to become less reliant?
Use a data science perspective
Pausing all Facebook spend isn’t going to be helpful in determining Facebook’s value within a media plan, because it’s not isolated as a variable and isn't measured against a control group of users still exposed to Facebook ads. Advertisers that want actionable insights should set up the needed controls to create a statistically significant result.
Connect with Facebook users elsewhere
Its users are engaged and often loyal, but Facebook is not the only place to reach them. Even Facebook and Instagram’s heaviest users are reachable across many other digital and non-digital properties, which range from other social platforms including NextDoor and Twitter, to other channels including connected TV, streaming audio and the broader web.
Do A/B testing again and again
The best time to start A/B testing was when you first launched your brand. If you’re joining the boycott, the second best time is now. Make this your call to action. Tell your CEO and board that you must A/B test every assumption about search, UI/UX, programmatic, social platforms and more.
Facebook has said it hosts more than 10,000 versions of its site and app at any given time to test and improve. Take it from the masters of testing: Marketers should consistently hold out control groups within audiences and test for both platform and creative efficacy.
If a marketer wants to target users who appear to be visiting restaurants for curbside delivery or takeout, it should hold out 5 to 10 percent of that audience and show them PSAs or no ads at all. I would test both. For creative testing, a common best practice is to split audiences 50/50 and constantly test new copy and images until performance is optimized.
Explore the best place to invest media dollars
How do audience members consume media? If they are heavy Facebook or Instagram users, just switching to another social platform might not be effective. Questions to consider:
How well can your message be conveyed in a particular channel or platform? A visual and emotional product like cosmetics, for instance, is less likely to drive results in audio than in visual formats. An advertiser who wants consumers to call a phone number should be on a platform where the number is clickable; connected TV is unlikely to be most effective.
Also, how do the costs of various channels compare and which investment yields the best returns? Be data-focused when considering which channels will produce the highest ROI.
Watch consumption trends carefully over the next few months. As the presidential election nears, it is important to know how Facebook traffic is being affected and where users are going if outside of the platform. Employ research tools including Comscore to follow user behavior changes, watch your site-side analytics trends carefully and use A/B testing if you resume spending on Facebook and Instagram.
The boycott is forcing advertisers to reevaluate business decisions. But it’s not impossible to achieve the same or better results without being so dependent on one platform for social spend.