Marketers need more data from Facebook

Facebook is poised to launch what many are predicting will be the largest technology stock sale in history, but if the social network is to maintain its lustre to investors and marketers, it must provide more data to brands on the impact of their social campaigns in order to secure the advertising revenue vital to its future success as a listed company.

Facebook

About 85% of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising, but many marketers feel they are being under served by the world’s largest social network when trying to analyse how their campaigns boost their own revenues.

The concerns of many were vocalised earlier this week by US car giant General Motors, which is said to be pulling all paid for advertising from the social network after concluding it had little impact on sales.

With $10m spent on Facebook ads in 2011, General Motors is far from the social network’s biggest advertiser – indeed rival Ford is one of Facebook’s most vocal cheerleaders – but its move is a blow when investors are looking for proof of Facebook’s worth to advertisers.

Many of the world’s biggest advertisers, P&G, Diageo and AB Inbev included, have declared Facebook a success in building brand affinity, but many others are frustrated over what they claim is a lack of available data.

HTC launched its first paid-for Facebook campaign earlier this month to promote the launch of its One X handset. Its UK and Ireland marketing director James Atkins says despite several meetings with Facebook in the UK, he is still waiting for sufficient case studies to filter through about how to make the most of the platform as a marketer.

He says: “The question I have is twofold: firstly, what is the most effective call to action of the ad block – should it be a call to purchase or feed into [your wider] campaign communications? Secondly, does the ad block compete with a well executed social campaign?”

More specifically, Johnny Devitt, marketing technology and display manager at Paddy Power, says if Facebook offered brands the chance to click track links on sponsored stories and if it offered impression tracking of pixels on fan pages – similar to YouTube – it would be convinced to put more of its digital budget into social.

“That kind of data just jumps off the page,” he adds.

Mark Ritson, associate professor of marketing, Marketing Week columnist and brand consultant, disagrees the company needs to provide marketers with more data than it currently does: “There isn’t a lot else that the Facebook team can do to push, peddle and reinforce the validity of the value of their medium to advertisers. The fundamental problem for Facebook is not strategic it’s structural.”

He adds that independent research points to the suggestion that despite Facebook’s “unbelievable” reach, it’s not always the best place to get a message across to a large audience, hence the nervousness from marketers to shift all their spending to the platform.

“Brands are learning for all the eyes and the likes, it isn’t always delivering the impact. And it’s that last variable that counts,” Ritson argues.

A poll of Facebook users by the Associated Press and CNBC appears to add some weight to such claims. More than half (57%) of Facebook users have never clicked on a ad or sponsored content when using the social network.

Facebook, predictably, says its platform does have the impact marketers crave and earlier this year embarked on a series of marketing roadshows across the globe to demonstrate how its paid-for products can boost the amount of people that see – and could ultimately share – any brand page post.

The roadshow’s dedicated website showcases a series of case studies from brands including American Express, Starbucks and BT, explaining how the platform has helped boost website traffic, product preference and sales.

Facebook recently moved into bigger London offices to accommodate its expanding client-facing resource as ad spend on the platform increases and also formed a community of Preferred Marketing Developers (PMDs) in part to help share case studies with brands.

Marc Blinder, social media strategist at another PMD, Adobe, which is working with Facebook to try and prove the value of a brand “Like”, argues that tools exist today to help brands better analyse the returns from Facebook campaigns.

He adds: “So many brands now use Adobe that we can help really prove the revenue associated with social media but people need to appreciate that social media is a long step in the complicated journey the user takes before purchase.”

Lee Griffin, commercial director of TBG Digital – also a PMD – adds that the problem is not a lack of data but communicating that that data exists. He adds: “The resource is there, as are the case studies…perhaps Facebook could do a better job of pointing clients in the right direction to find the case studies, PMDs or specialist agencies?”

Speaking at Adobe’s Digital Marketing Summit this week, John Yi, marketing manager of Facebook’s API program, said that marketers need to understand social marketing is about doing “people stuff”, not about measuring clicks, which may explain why quantifiable analysis of Facebook campaigns is sometimes hard to come by.

Facebook has done a good job in marketing its potential worth to investors but if it is prevent its stock price plummeting beyond its initial spike, many marketers have made it clear that Facebook quickly needs to prove its worth to their brands, rather than just its shareholders, in a bid to secure unending financial success.

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