How brands should consider the real impact Facebook advertising can have on your brand.

Facebook… the global phenomenon, where people share funny videos, rant about the latest news and events, tag friends and family in pictures anywhere in the world and to top it off advertisers and marketers can access the information that individuals have entered as part of their profile set up (aka 1st party data).

Brands large and small can promote their product promotions, app downloads, mobile installations or simply showcase brand content and gain shares and/or likes. What’s not to love about Facebook?

The Formats
Facebook currently run three core solutions all of which are a combination of text, image or video based:

  1. Awareness ads
    • Like ad
    • Photo ad
    • Video ad
  2. Traffic driving ads
    • Link ad
    • Multi product ad
    • Domain ad
  3. Conversion ads
    • App install
    • App Engagement ad
    • Offer ad

So there are two core concerns that I have with the Facebook ad formats. The first is the static nature of the majority of these ads. From a brand perspective there is minimal ability to provide a branded experience that doesn’t disrupt the users’ experience. MPUs have evolved over the last decade where user initiation (hover to expand or click to play) is at the heart of the proposition, but allows engaged users to have the optimum brand experience without leaving the page that are on.
The second issue I have is the reliability of some of the formats. E.g. like ads or video ads. I go on to highlight why these formats are problematic later.

What is an engagement?
So lets pick up on the unreliability of Facebooks ability to split their reports by user initiated engagement and auto video play.
The IAB report Measuring Digital Ad Engagement: Advancing 3MS forms of engagement:

  1. Cognitive – Connected to changes in awareness, interest and intent
  2. Emotional – How has the content in question make the user feel
  3. Physical/ Behavioral – User initiated

The methods of brand surveys and eye tracking studies have numerous holes in them and factors that influence responses such as questions that lean or support the objective of the study or environment. By environment I mean sitting in an eye tracking chair or studio conducting exercises for an allotted time isn’t a natural experience and the user can display behaviours that are unnatural but perform in order to show a degree of contribution.
The user initiated model for me is the true representation of engagement because I feel if something emotionally connects with an individual then you may perform the following actions:

  • Share
  • Click
  • Like
  • Comment

Some of you may have noticed that viewed or watch wasn’t in the list and there’s a good reason for this. Because Facebook count an engagement as a video that appears in a user’s feed that auto plays without sound, it’s not actually user initiated. However, Facebook are continuing to include auto plays into their reporting meaning that agencies do not have a fair comparison of user engagement. Take Twitter for example, in order to engage with their paid content it is click to play which is user initiated.

A security algorithm that appears to not detect fraud because Click Farms like everything (paid and non-paid)

A great case study below shows how click/ like farms are impacting the value of a fan on Facebook and how these farms are avoiding getting caught by the fraud algorithm that Facebook deploy. The most shocking concern that I share with this case study is Facebook inability to rectify the issue by removing suspicious or farm related data (such as: like, shares, comments etc)

Breaching EU Law on Cookie Policy
The Belgian Data Protection Agency (DPA) revealed that Facebook tracks web browsers of those people that come on to their site whether they have an account or not. Alongside this Facebook uses a person’s user initiated click on a social plugin (Like button) to gain information on the individual using cookies. However, according to the Guardian, Facebook have taken this one step further

“when a user visits a third-party site that carries one of Facebook’s social plug-ins, it detects and sends the tracking cookies back to Facebook – even if the user does not interact with the Like button, Facebook Login or other extension of the social media site.”

The question that marketers have to ask is what are they doing with the data they are collecting on their social widgets and how are they using that data to sell their advertising solutions? Especially when its adding data from non-Facebook users.
The questions that brands have to ask themselves is taking all of this information in what is the value of a Facebook user and moreover is your paid media budget best spent in other ways using more legitimate and transparent methods.
Earlier in the year I asked Facebook about their ability to provide access to talent or journalists that have high engagement on Facebook and it was simply not part of their marketing proposition. Which is surprising given that celebrities and journalist rely heavily on social to amplify their own profiles. There is clear a value exchange that Facebook can leverage to their advantage in order to have a more diversified content driven ad portfolio.  Essentially, Facebook has the ability to be an even stronger platform for brands, but what people forget is that Facebook wasn’t built with advertising in mind. It’s a retrofitted offering which at the minute doesn’t offer a huge deal.