Low click through rates on Facebook ads are being mistaken for a problem with Facebook. The bigger problem is the marketing profession’s reliance on advertising and dated forms of measurement.
The news that GM pulled their $10 million ad budget from Facebook due to poor click-throughs dovetailed nicely with the disappointing IPO, generating a perfect storm of doomsday predictions for the social media network. The inevitable comparisons of ad performance on Facebook (0.1% click through) versus Google’s display network (0.4% click through) soon followed. In addition to Facebook’s claims that they nobly turned down GM’s request for more intrusive ad units, their latest salvo is a comScore study showing their ads do in fact work (although it’s unlikely they’ll dispute the low CTRs).
These CTR comparisons are not only apples-to-oranges but miss the larger point: Facebook gives brands the opportunity to connect with consumers by attracting them to content, not interrupting it. In addition to Ford (which was quick with a snarky tweet regarding their successful mix of ads and content on Facebook), complaints aren’t being heard from Coke, Old Spice or any number of brands whose consumer outreach thrives on Facebook. So there’s clearly no issue with consumers’ willingness to connect with brands on Facebook (as the below research from Wildfire further illustrates), it’s just not through a set of discretely positioned ads.
The concern over a social media platform’s poor performance as an advertising network is indicative of the marketing profession’s reliance on advertising, and dated approaches to measurement (another study suggesting the irrelevance of click through rates to sales). When a banner ad is considered successful when it’s not clicked on by 99.6% of its audience, it’s time to rethink the way we measure advertising as well as its priority in the marketing mix.
“Confusing the trainwreck IPO with (Facebook’s) fortunes is classic market myopia, getting caught up in short-term drama and forgetting what was interesting in the first place.”
– Alexis Madrigal
Their findings contradict the notion that frequent interactions with consumers are helpful to sales or valued by consumers. In short – regular updates and interactions don’t matter. Shared values do. (For example, “I love dogs and Pedigree seems to genuinely care about dogs.”)
Not surprisingly, the frequency of interactions matters even less. Even among users of a brand, the regular updates are more likely to add to the information bombardment and reduce stickiness.
A recent study on what works for brands on Facebook reached a somewhat similar conclusion. While Facebook encourages interactions, they found the most engaging ones are about the brand’s category (e.g., travel) vs product news (e.g., new resort opened today). No big surprises there, but interesting to see the least engaging interactions were those that had nothing to do with the brand, but were imagined to be relevant to the audience (e.g., “Hang in there everybody. Monday will be over before we know it!”).
So it’s somewhat official – passing along the meme of the day or notes of encouragement in the name of more interactions is likely to be ignored at best or a turn-off at worst.