Facebook Proves Us All Wrong (And It's Not Just Facebook)

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All too often, we fall victim to a the market of one syndrome.

I was on Facebook when somebody I know (and respect) said something akin to: "Nobody I know has ever click on a mobile banner ad." That’s the market of one. It’s the, "I don’t do it and nobody I know does it, so how can it work?" I hate when people talk like a market of one. The Montreal office of Twist Image is in a charming part of the city called, Old Montreal (it really is as close to a European city as you are likely to find in North America). At the end of every day, I have to trudge across the city to my house. On the journey is the infamous Bell Centre. This is our major arena. It’s where The Habs play, it’s where we have major concerts and events. On any given day of the week, there is a major event happening there. Sometimes, the arena is filled with close to 30,000 fans of… something. I don’t know what. I’m fascinated by this. These massive get-together are happening in my city (that people spend their hard earned savings on) and, if I didn’t have to drive by it every single day, I would have never known that it happened. So, if something is happening and I don’t know about it, does that mean that it didn’t happen? Does that mean that it’s not relevant? Does that mean that it’s not something that a brand should pay attention to? Of course not.

We say things that have no reality to back it up.

People are getting tired of Facebook. I don’t go to Facebook anymore and neither do my friends. Nobody clicks on a mobile ad. Stuff like that. I get asked/told this kind of thing daily by people. Smart people. Marketing professionals. Senior marketing professionals. Then, Facebook comes out with their results. They were so good, that I find myself rethinking my own beliefs about what Facebook is… what Facebook has become… what Facebook will be (and, I’m already very bullish on Facebook). If you’ve been online today, you have seen the news. You have read the discourse. Have you really, truly and deeply thought about what this means?

Facebook’s results should make you rethink Facebook.

Here’s the headline: "Facebook grew revenue 61% and more than doubled second-quarter profit while making even more money from ads targeted at users on mobile devices, sending shares to record highs."

What Facebook means from a marketing perspective:

  1. Facebook is mobile. This is huge. A company that was established as a Web browser-based platform managed to pull off one of the greatest transitions to mobile seen since the dawn of the Internet. You may dismiss this as nothing more than developing an app, I would argue that it is one of the most underrated instances of true innovation that we have seen recently. You can read more about my thoughts on this, right here: What Facebook Knows About Innovation (That Every Brand Should Pay Attention To).
  2. Facebook continues to grow. Whether it’s more people connecting to it, more geographic opportunities or simply people using it more and more on mobile devices (as more and more people adapt to mobile over computers), the fact is that you can’t serve ads at this scale if nobody is using the service. You can think what you like about usage, but people are using Facebook more.
  3. Mobile advertising is nascent (and it works). As significant dollars shift to mobile advertising because the users are there, it’s important to remember that this is still early days. Mobile offers a lot of powerful advertising opportunities that display advertising had a hard time delivering against. Location, motion, context and more can all play into the power of better, more relevant advertising, and Facebook is on the cusp of delivering against that. It’s still early days.
  4. Great at local. Great at mass. Before sending an ad, Facebook knows a lot about its users. Let’s repeat that: Facebook knows a lot about its users. We (as a digital marketing community) have long wanted to find a way to blend personal data, with localized unique opportunities, while at the same time having access to both scale and a more mass market. That’s what Facebook is. You can get highly relevant in terms of who you want to speak to and – at the same time – they have mass reach as well.
  5. The newsfeed is the new ad format. This is less about the ads in the top right hand of the page. The action, heat and opportunity continues to be the newsfeed. As you flip and scroll through that newsfeed, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between when a brand is posting a cool piece of content or whether it’s a sponsored post to download an app. Regardless, it fills the screen in a very non-intrusive way that is a congruous brand experience. You’ll scroll past the marketing stuff you don’t care about – much in the same way you’ll scroll past that annoying friend of yours who is posting incessantly about their annoying kid. In short, Facebook has habituated its users to graze across content without the feeling of being interrupted or annoyed by an ad.
  6. Facebook is still growing. It’s easy to dig a little deeper and see some chinks in the armor of Facebook’s usage, but it’s still growing. Yes, there are mature markets for Facebook, and yes, they may be stagnating in certain demographics, but the numbers and money doesn’t lie. They’re doing better than the analysts expected (and, if I’m going to be honest, they’re doing way better than I expected as well). While they’re still tinkering (and some would say faltering) with their video advertising, expect them to get this right and begin another huge push in marketing opportunities for brands. Instagram (which Facebook owns) is also slowly and intelligently rolling out advertising/content marketing. Facebook also launched a mobile advertising network last April to sell advertising on non-Facebook apps. If that’s not interesting enough, the company is now claiming to have 1.3 billion monthly users. As the USA Today article (that I linked to above) concludes: "That means it has more users than India has people, and it’s closing in on China." Facebook has its own world of users and it knows a lot about them today… and will know a ton more about them tomorrow (as users use it more, create more and share more).   

Don’t buy Facebook stock.

I’m no financial analyst. I’m not here to tell you that Facebook is a sound long term stock investment. I am a marketing professional. I do see a lot of my peers dismissing Facebook because they’re thinking like a market of one. Don’t be that person. Look at the numbers. Think about the brand opportunities. As Facebook continues to grow, evolve and develop their models of advertising and marketing, don’t dismiss what it can do… and should do. And, it’s not just Facebook. Google, LinkedIn, blogs, YouTube, podcasting, you name it. Don’t think that just because you’ve lost some interest, that they’re still not powerful channels to connect your message with a broader and more targeted audience. The opportunities are everywhere.

Ultimately, the numbers don’t lie. Where do you see the Facebook opportunity?