The Facebook Eco-System: Why It’s Top Of It’s Game

Every now and then articles crop up stating “Facebook is dead”, or “young people don’t use Facebook anymore”, or “LinkedIn is the new Facebook”.

But none of these are true. Nor have they ever been, since its launch in 2004.

Facebook has gone from strength to strength over its thirteen years, leaping over various hurdles, molding its offering and diversifying extensively to suit its users’ needs with each passing year.

It now sits at the top of its sector, boasting 1.87 billion monthly active users and four million active advertisers. What started essentially as an online yearbook now manages to take up a fifth of all time spent on the internet. But this is not referring to Facebook as a stand-alone application but rather to the Facebook Ecosystem as a whole; while Facebook itself is the biggest and most notable of the ecosystem’s applications, ‘Facebook’ now includes Messenger, Instagram and Whatsapp – three more of the most popular social apps – all under one roof.

So why is having these fellow high flyers a big deal for Facebook? Let’s take it one at a time:

Instagram: To up its Photo Game, Quash Competitors, Collect More Data and Improve its Mobile Experience

Acquired for a cool $1 billion in April 2012, Facebook made sure no competitors could snap up the super-popular photo-sharing platform and just like that, Instagram (IG) ceased to be its biggest market threat.

At the time, sharing photos was one of the most popular activities on Facebook, and thus the acquisition helped to cement this, linking the platforms and merging the filters and effects that users loved so much with their favorite and most-used social platform. Storytelling is what makes social media tick, and nothing does this better than photos and videos. Thus, Instagram helped to put some feeling into Facebook, which had previously been judged as somewhat soulless within the social space.

Furthermore, Facebook is all about the data, which is what helps to make so much of your Newsfeed content so relevant. Acquiring Instagram meant a whole heap more user data; the photos and hashtags posted by IGers brought another level of user-knowledge for Facebook to harness, including friend lists, facial recognition and location data as well as specific user interests.

What’s more, mobile-only Instagram – and the impressive mobile development team that came with it – helped transform Facebook’s app from clunky and not remotely pleasurable to use, into the sleek user experience that it has today.

And finally, we can’t deny the cool factor. Sure, Facebook is popular with everyone – your mum’s on it, your grandad’s on it, your old teacher’s on it… but five years since the acquisition, Instagram withholds its hipster image helping to give Facebook that little bit of extra street cred.

Whatsapp: For World Domination

Well for starters this bad boy was acquired in 2014 for a not-so-tiny $19 BILLION. An unimaginable amount of money. But why? At the time many called out the decision as ridiculous or stupid, but was it? I don’t think so.

Believe it or not, Whatsapp users are even more active than Facebook users. The usage statistics explained in our recent blog Why Facebook is An Essential Tool for Any Small or Local Business were pretty mind boggling, but get this – Whatsapp users are even more active, and their number of users grew more than twice as fast as Facebook’s.

Source: Facebook

Aside from its user numbers and its position as the leader in the global instant messaging arena (any platform with so many users is of course extremely valuable), an apparent stand-out factor for Zuckerberg was the geographical location of Whatsapp’s users. As of January this year the platform had 1.2 billion users, many of which are located in developing countries.

In the last few years, it’s been no secret that Facebook has been keen to boost its numbers outside of the US & Europe, and acquiring Whatsapp has allowed it to do just that. The acquisition helps with Zuckerberg’s vision to connect the whole world, aiding its internet.org initiative and allowing the Facebook Ecosystem to reach parts of the world that it had barely featured in before.

Oculus: For the Future

Now this one’s a little different, as Virtual Reality is not something we’ve seen a lot of up to this point. While Facebook already dominates the now, acquiring the leader of the VR space suggests that Facebook is also looking to dominate the future, where it’s expected that the main technology platform will no longer be mobile but instead, augmented and virtual reality(!). On acquiring the company for $2 billion in 2014, Zuckerberg said in this TechReview article, “There are not many things that are candidates to be the next major computing platform… [This acquisition is a] long-term bet on the future of computing.”

So it looks like the lenses and filters that are so cherished today will eventually be replaced with immersive augmented and virtual reality. In fact, augmented reality is already managing to sneak in a little bit in the form of the interactive filters that we most commonly associate with Snapchat, but are as of this month, also on Facebook’s native app.

And while it would seem Facebook is looking to continue to rule not only social but computing on a greater scale, it is only to be expected that it’ll use this acquisition to do what Facebook does best – capture data. Could we see our facial expressions being tracked to learn how we react to certain things in coming years?! Spooky.

And finally to Facebook Messenger, which was not an acquisition but rather a strategic transition from part of the native platform to a stand-alone application. Which begs the question, why have your own competing app when you’ve just bought the world’s leading messaging platform?

Messenger: Because it Can

Similar to acquiring Whatsapp, having a separate messaging platform to its native app allows it to reach yet more users, like those who do not want a Facebook profile. Messenger allows you to sign up with just a mobile number, meaning people who don’t want an account can still chat with their Facebook-using friends. Which of course means yet more data for Facebook, and a reasonably high chance that they’ll get pushed over the edge and sign up for a fully-fledged account anyway.

Plus, removing chat features from the native app and forcing users to a separate platform means a third additional location through which to reach more of the world. And if the news from this year’s F8 conference is any indication, Messenger will continue to grow, evolve and add features well into the future.

To summarize, by acquiring these social leaders but keeping them separate, plus creating its own standalone messaging app, Facebook continues to expand its global reach and dominate not just social media as a whole but the greatly important sectors of instant messaging and photo-sharing. With it’s team of MVPs it’s now hitting almost every corner of the Earth, it can’t be long before almost the entire population is connected via the vast Facebook Ecosystem.

Sources
10 Reasons Why Facebook Bought Instagram; Hill, K
https://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/04/11/ten-reasons-why-facebook-bought-instagram/#64532a2dd1b1

Why did Facebook buy WhatsApp?; Swider, M
http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/web/what-s-up-with-facebook-buying-whatsapp-it-s-about-the-developing-world-1226429

 

Why Facebook is an Essential Marketing Tool for any Small or Local Business

Gone are the days when Facebook could be passed off as the latest fad. With 1.87 billion active users each month and four million active advertisers, the social platform is not only here to stay, it’s also completely dominating the world of social networking.

What’s more, it’s entirely transforming the way small and local businesses market themselves. As a business leader, if you don’t want to fall behind and lose out to your numerous competitors, ignoring the phenomenon that is Facebook advertising is a seriously bad move. Here’s why you really should consider jumping on the social media bandwagon.

It’s Got the Numbers

Not only are Facebook’s user-numbers ridiculously high, but people are engaging. According to Facebook’s own data from December 2016, 78% of users return to the site daily and check their Newsfeed 15-20 times a day1. You’re probably thinking, “Pfft… I don’t check mine nearly that much”. You may well be right. So, then think about just how many times some people must be sneaking little peeks at their News Feed throughout the day to bring that average up. Frankly, the level to which some people engage with Facebook is a little scary.

Plus, despite nearly everything moving online, Facebook is still managing to take up a fifth of all time spent on the internet (again, according to Facebook’s own data from Dec 2016). What’s more, users are no longer just mindlessly scrolling, nor are they simply posting selfies and checking what their mates are up to anymore.

Instead, they’re diversifying the way they use the platform; they’re actually engaging with the content. From consuming relevant news articles, searching for events, and clicking on promotions and sales, there’s no end to what this multifaceted site has to offer. As a result, Facebook ads have an average click-through-rate that is almost ten times higher than regular web ads.

Amazingly, the platform generates a quarter of all website traffic. And users aren’t just clicking; they’re more than happy to engage and convert so long as you provide them with the right content to drive your desired outcome. With intelligent targeting and content that ties in with the interests and purchasing habits of your typical customer, it could be easier than you think to open up a treasure chest full of new prospects, as well as re-engage your existing customer base.

It Works

Businesses are continuing to see success from Facebook Ads. Sixty-five million businesses have used Facebook Pages in the last 30 days (an increase of around 15 million from this time last year, according to Business Insider) and at the last count, the platform reported four million active advertisers – almost double that of 2015.

While these numbers are increasing, there’s also a shift in the amount that people are willing to spend on the platform. The truth of the matter is that many savvy businesses are moving their marketing budget from other, arguably less effective channels, to where they are seeing the highest ROI – on Facebook.

But does all this actually convert to real money-in-the-bank results? Well, take it from the horse’s mouth – 42% of Americans say Facebook is their number one influencer of purchases, while a recent study by Facebook (of US shoppers who recently made a purchase) found that:

  • 30% discovered a new product on Facebook
  • ⅓ said Facebook & Instagram were good places to find out about a new product or service
  • 20% said Facebook led them to buy a new product/service online

What do these stats tell us? Well, not only are Facebook ads proving successful when talking growth, user-numbers, click-through-rates and the like, but it’s also translating into real, successful business results.

It Boosts Other Media

While Facebook ads are an amazing tool, they are the not the magic solution to all your problems. It would be naive to believe that they are. Sure, they can be effective as a stand-alone marketing method; however, they work best when supporting other media, and have been proven to boost other efforts and help propel other channels towards greater success.

For example, if you’re currently running TV ads, you could back them up with video ads on Facebook. There’s a 30% increase in brand awareness and consideration when using Facebook video to complement other media.

Or, on the other hand, if you’re trying to improve your SEO and boost traffic to your website, you could backup your search ads with Facebook ads. People who see ads on Facebook are more likely to search and click through to an advertiser’s website, with campaigns experiencing a 6.3% lift in mobile search traffic.

No matter what your current objective, chances are there’s an ad type for it. Soft-sell, hard-sell, raise awareness, find new subscribers, get more traffic to your website, get more people into your store, get more downloads of your app, find a new member of staff, run a competition…I could keep going, but I think you get the idea. There’s little limit to what you can do with Facebook ads – the trick is figuring out how to nail them, and allowing them to slot in nicely to your current marketing strategy.

Convinced Yet?

The reality is that Facebook isn’t going away. The sheer numbers can’t be ignored and the fact of the matter is, your audience is on Facebook.

While Facebook ads do work on the same pay-per-click/pay-per-impression idea as most online advertising does, there’s one striking difference. The scary amount of data that Facebook has on each user means that your ads can be put in front of people that are much more likely to actually engage with your ad, and take the action you want them to. Facebook knows who’s more likely to click, who likes to watch videos through to the end, who’s happy to leave the app and do a bit of mobile-shopping, and so on. This means that when you choose to run ads on this platform you’re essentially spending your advertising dollars far more efficiently, by reaching those most relevant to your offering.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em – and why wouldn’t you when there’s so little to lose? Organic content is all well and good for representing who you are on your social platforms, but with the average reach for posts by Facebook Pages being 2.6%, you really have to pay to play.

Likes, comments and shares might make you look good amongst your peers, but do they mean more customers? Not necessarily. If you focus on getting real business results on Facebook through clever targeting and ad types that tie in with your existing strategies, you’ll be amazed how quickly you start to see the value.

Is Grey the New Black?

And we’re not talking the 50 Shades kind!

According to a new study more people over the age of 65 are using Facebook1. The study found that the increasing numbers were a result of them wanting to reconnect with old friends and maintain existing relationships, such as a desire to see what their children and grandchildren were doing. This brings to mind one of my favorite all time posts on Facebook. . .

The 65+ age group was found to be the fastest growing demographic across social media with a 14 point increase from 48% to 62% in a year. The Millennials are still the largest group at 88%, but growth is slowing as indicated in the graphbelow. All this is a wake-up call to marketers who still believe Facebook and other social media platforms are only for the younger generations.

 

A separate study by Influence.co also reported that the 65+ demographic were most influenced by ads on Instagram. They were the group most likely to search for products after seeing Instagram promoted posts, with an 80% indication rate versus 40% for Millennials3.

The implications for anyone looking to target an audience on Instagram:

  1. The 65+ demographic is a lucrative market: Older adults have more disposable income than teenagers and students, likely a result of their own offspring leaving home.
  2. Changing times: The demographics of social media change as fast as Facebook statuses – 293,000 status updates every 60 seconds if you really want to know4. How can you possibly keep up? The trick is to use the Facebook pixel on your website so you know the type of visitors who are interested in your product, which also allows you to build lookalike audiences you can target. If you discover that a big portion of your audience is 65+, well then indeed, grey can be the new black!

1 Source: Castleford.com 2016
2 Source: Pew Research Center Social Media update 2016, November 2016.
3 Source: Adweek March, 2017
4 Source: The Social Skinny

Restricted and Prohibited: Facebook Ad Rules to Live by, Part 2 of 2

We’re back with Part 2 of our insight on Facebook’s restricted and prohibited ad content. Today, it’s all about the prohibited kinds, so pay close attention! Whether managing ads for yourself or selling Facebook ads to a customer, it’s important to understand Facebook’s advertising guidelines clearly, particularly around restricted and prohibited content. Otherwise, your ad could get delayed or removed, and worse, your page could get flagged for publishing prohibited content.

That Facebook has rules that restrict or prohibit certain content is a really a benefit to us all. The rules represent not only good advertising practices but good common sense and decency.



Part 2: Prohibited Ad Content

Is it Art or Porn?
Don’t tell me you won’t know the difference when you see it. Any ads that tout adult content, like nudity or suggestive activities, or adult products or services, like…well, you know, are prohibited. We all know that sex sells. Just not on Facebook.

Ka-Boom!
Road Runner cartoons are great, but if Wile E. Coyote hopes to find some new ACME rockets on Facebook, he’ll be out of luck. Facebook ads promoting weapons, explosives or ammunition are nowhere to be found.

No Smokin’ or Tokin’
No tobacco. No drugs. No tobacco or drug-related products, like roach clips or vaporizers. Not that we would know. And while we’re talking about drugs, if Facebook deems your supplement unsafe, as it does with anabolic steroids, chitosan and comfrey, for example, don’t even try.  

That’s Shocking!
Nore gore found here please. Nothing violent or, you know, gross. No one comes to Facebook to be grossed out or scared to death.

404s and Other Junk
Who’d want to promote a broken link anyway? But this rule includes websites with features that interfere with a user’s ability to navigate away from a page, like pop-ups. In the same vein, low quality, junky ads that take the user to unexpected or disruptive experiences or sites with minimal original content are out. And since we’re talking about controversial content, I may as well mention that this includes questionable political or social issues being used for commercial purposes.

I Spy
Whether you’re using a webcam or a piece of software to spy on someone or what they are doing, online or offline, advertising about it is a no-go. Just don’t.

Pants on Fire
In this day and age, it might be hard to tell truth from fiction, but if you’re in advertising, you’re going to have to try. No misleading or flat-out false content is allowed. If they can figure out which is which.

Class it up
Nothing says spam faster than PEOPLE WHO USE ALL CAPS or tend to use exclamation points excessively!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Also, don’t be profane. And spelling the “S word” with a $ symbol will get you busted too. Keep it classy.

Don’t Discriminate
Speaking of keeping it classy, ads can’t discriminate based on all the things you’d expect – race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, age, etc.

Don’t Take it Personal
Of course, the expression is actually “Don’t take it personally,” but we got it wrong on purpose to make the point. Facebook ads can’t suggest that the advertiser knows you or your personal traits. This one is a little trickier to understand and we get a ton of questions about it. If an ad said something like, “Need a personal injury lawyer due to your accident?” This implies it knows you had an accident, and that’s not okay.

Not the Land of Make-Believe
Using your imagination is great if you’re a kid. But if you want to place an ad on Facebook, it has to be about something that actually exists.

Broke?
Need a payday or cash advance loan? Don’t look for suppliers on Facebook. It’s not a thing here. Nor are ads promoting income opportunities classified as “multi-level marketing” or that promote “quick compensation” business models. Try daytime television instead, say during the Jerry Springer show.

No Fake IDs
Does it come as any surprise that Facebook doesn’t allow ads that promote counterfeit documents?

Cheap Tricks
Ads can’t promote penny auctions or bidding fee auctions. Ads also can’t contain flash animation that plays automatically without the person’s interaction. That’s tacky.

I Lost 60 Pounds!
Sorry folks. If you’re peddling weight loss products, you can’t show before and after pics, or anything else that implies a negative self-perception in order to promote the product. Furthermore, unsubstantiated claims, like promising that someone will lose an exact amount in a set timeframe or make $1,000 in a week is a total no-no.

That’s Not Yours
Content that infringes upon trademark, privacy, publicity or proprietary rights of any third party are clearly prohibited as well.

A special note for lead generation ads: due to Facebook’s privacy policy, advertisers must not create lead generation forms that request the following types of information:

  • Account numbers
  • Criminal and arrest history
  • Financial information
  • Government-issued identifiers
  • Trade union membership
  • Username or passwords
  • Health information
  • Insurance information
  • Political affiliation
  • Race or ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation

We hope this content is useful to you. Bookmark it so you can visit again. And if you missed Part 1 in our series, visit it here. Want even more details about Facebook’s restricted and prohibited policies? Visit their Ads Policy page.