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Social: the new face of Paid Media?

Jan 29 2018 admin

Mark Zuckerberg announced yet another change a few days ago – Facebook will soon show more content from friends and less from brands. This latest move has opened up another can of worms. While many are rejoicing that FB has finally gone back to connecting people, others are speculating that this is a clever move on Zuckerberg’s part to move focus away from the media accusations that surrounds him on filter bubbles, the Russian propaganda and other fake news.

What is Zuckerberg really up to? Is it really so surprising that he announced what he did?

Brands spent millions of dollars building communities on what essentially is someone else’s property. Zuckerberg laughed to the bank while brands spent money acquiring fans on FB. A brand’s FB page is NOT owned media. It is just an inexpensive and easy way to get wide reach and inexpensive engagement.

Coming back to Zuckerberg’s latest move- it was expected. Fan-base deemed wasted on brand pages will force them to reach out to audiences via paid ads and promotions on FB. They will also start looking at other platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp for serious spends to widen their reach. Facebook has already announced launch of ad units that would let businesses create a link between FB and WhatsApp: advertisers will be able to include a CTA on their ads to call or message via WhatsApp. There were plenty of sightings of these being tested last year on FB. Similar call to action buttons are also being tested on Instagram. See screenshots on an Instagram ad that took me straight to the WhatsApp platform to chat with the advertiser.

WhatsApp has officially launched its new WhatsApp Business app in select markets like India, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, UK & the US generating a lot of excitement amongst advertisers. Currently available only on Android it will soon rolled out on IOS as well. Brands will once again build WhatsApp version of Facebook Pages, use the platform to communicate better with their customers & establish an official presence on WhatsApp. Eventually the enterprise solution will be launched and larger brands will move there. The ecosystem that Zuckerberg has built feeds in to advertisers need for reach and convenience.

What advertisers forget is the power that they have vested in the hands of one man. Zuckerberg is essentially controlling what brands do on social media. In the absence of a real social media competitor, Zuckerberg has got brands by their collars. Advertisers need to steer clear of the trap of this so-called fan-base/follower base and social media platforms. They need to remember that real social is all about building communities that enable meaningful communication amongst people of shared interest. Brands need to move to owned property (much like their own website) and build their own communities.

Discussion boards and forums were the true and original social media. They were formed due to shared interests. Back then, brands built forums so enthusiasts would gather and interact. With the advent of Facebook, businesses became more about media & less about social. Reach became more important than engagement. The world moved to leased digital real estate. In the beginning, leased social communities worked well. Brands could build, reach and engage expensive audiences using FB. But Zuckerberg changed the rules, the algorithms. From a party on-the-house it was now a paid event. FB let you enter the party free but would charge you every time you wanted to reach out to a new friend or even an old one. Social media is not owned media.

It is time to build meaningful social assets for brands on real estate that is fully owned and controlled by them. Brands need to build communities not just so audiences consume the content created by them. They need to give audiences a reason to stay – to have conversations with others of the same interest. These would be real engagements and not just limited to likes, comments and shares.

The KPIs expected from social need to be relooked at. The platforms need to be relooked at. Brands and agencies have to be willing to plan long term or the only winner in this entire game will be players like Facebook and Google. As for what Zuckerberg and FB is up to – you just need to remember that FB is not a benevolent distributor of branded content but a company that is looking at profit-making.