Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Why Facebook fails brands

In a recent poll from Reuters/Ipsos, 80% of Facebook users report that they've never interacted with an ad on the social networking site.

I'm not surprised.

And here's why I won't be surprised if Facebook – even with nearly a billion users – never lives up to its promise of becoming a magical place where brands and consumers can form a more perfect union.

People don't come to Facebook to interact with brands. They come to interact with their friends and family.

I can hear you saying, "They don't come to TV for the ads either," and you'd be right. But there are a couple of key differences.

First, people accept ads on television because they pay for the content. Their expectations on the internet are different as every publisher and content provider has discovered.

Second, you don't interact with television. You sit back and let the content waft over you. Sure, you may flip between channels or fast forward through the spots on your DVR. But for the most part, ads are a part of the content not a little bar off to the side.

When I'm on Facebook, I'm looking at my newsfeed. I'm reading posts. I'm commenting on photos. I'm ignoring Socialcam and all those other insidious apps.

What I'm not doing is looking at the ads.

The answer may be to create promoted posts as Twitter does, but I'm skeptical of that. Having your brand's message show up uninvited on a timeline would be akin to walking up to people engaged in a conversation, interrupting them and trying to sell them something. It's the wrong place and time even if they happen to be talking about you.

The opportunity for brands on Facebook is just as it is for any other word of mouth communication; do something interesting, do something remarkable, solve a real problem for people and maybe they'll talk about you.

Elbowing your way into the conversation won't endear your brand to anyone.


  1. Nicely argued and well written.

    1. Thanks Bob. I'm a big fan of your blog and point of view.

  2. I'd be interested in your opinion about a facebook advertising campaign from OnePiece jumpsuits ( Below is their facebook post with the description of the campaign. Are you aware of any other advertisers that have tried this method? From a marketer perspective I think it's worth a try, as a Facebook user myself I'm afraid my timeline will get spammed with posts from friends trying to earn a little pocket money... Marielle @cloudninemedia

    We have always know that the most effective way to spread the word of OnePiece is through you guys - NOT expensive and annoying online banners. Therefor we are giving back to our fans through our new partner Kiosked. You get up to 10€ per OnePiece bought through your Facebook post or blog post - you also get 10€ free as a signup bonus and join the campaign now and win a trip to the BAHAMAS! It is 3 easy steps and takes 10 seconds to start posting. GOODBYE BANNER MARKETING!

    1. Marielle, Thanks for the comment. I think this is exactly the thing that will drive people away from Facebook. If brands aren't transparent about their actions and intentions and people are posting positive reviews for financial gain not a genuine love of the product. I'm sure it will provide some short term gain, but in the long run the deceptive tactics always end up devaluing the brand.

      I think your instinct to think first as a Facebook user and then as a marketer are correct. The golden rule applies here, market unto others as you would like others to market to you.

    2. Thanks for your quick feedback Harvey. Really appreciate it.

    3. My pleasure, thanks for being part of my little blog community.

  3. Hi Harvey - thanks for this. It's 4 years on now and I was wondering what your views are about this now that Facebook is getting better at it 'prompted posts' (they annoy me, but I can't be bothered to do anything about it. Would love to hear your view. Thanks, Graham

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