The landscape of Facebook has altered dramatically over the past decade, the social giant has always been one-step ahead, creating innovative solutions to keep its users continually engaged. With this in mind, is it possible that 2013 be the year Facebook loses its lead in the innovation race it seems to have set itself? Could the user finally be catching up with Facebook? We think so.
As with any start-up there was always going to be pitfalls along the way but Facebook has handled all the obstacles thrown at it with an air of calm ingenuity. However, there is one over arching obstacle Facebook didn’t forsee, an obstacle that lies in the fundamental concept of Facebook as both a business and a social platform. Facebook has and always has had, big ambitions, however, at the heart of these ambitions is its fundamental problem; Facebook is walking the thin line of connected consumerism. As a business that wholly relies on the social engagement of its consumers for its own business, Facebook must tread carefully if it is to remain popular and still make money.
With over 1 billion users Facebook can no longer run from this problem it faces, Facebook is in danger of becoming a tautology- its own worst enemy. However, the blame cannot be put solely on Facebook itself, in this day and age it is easy to get swept along by the digital current. With people spending more and more time using digital applications the line between online and offline has gradually been blurred. Today, a socially integrated marketing strategy is no longer seen as innovation but rather, expectation. Social media, in particular, has become such a dominating feature in our daily lives that we no longer acknowledge any difference between ‘social media’ and ‘social networking’. However, it is imperative that the line be re-established if Facebook is to survive.
Facebook is first and foremost a platform, it has in the past tried to hide this fact, promoting itself as your personal social hub, however, Facebook itself has awoken to the fact that the online marketer now faces the same problems promoting offline as they do online. This is not to say that social media is a thing of the past, on the contrary, Facebook’s alteration of its layout is the first sign of a monumental shift in Facebook’s long history. If Facebook is to continue growing, it is important it be treated like a tool rather than an online social hub. Facebook is viewed too often as a quick-fix strategy for increased visibility- yes you may get more ‘likes’ but what does this really mean? With over 1 billion users and counting, you are going to need an awful lot of likes to make an impression! Impressions rather than visibility should be at the forefront of your mind when creating content for a social media strategy. Visibility is the outcome of impression. Establishing credible brand identity requires time and effort that social media can only support, not generate.
Facebook’s two biggest announcements this year, demonstrate a focus towards deepening social engagement rather than increasing social engagement. Facebook is attempting to add a level of credibility and a quantifiable way of measuring the performance of ‘likes’ with the introduction of graph search. Graph search signifies the beginning of Facebook’s much anticipated attempt to rival Google in the search stakes. Facebook search will operate in a semantic fashion, enabling you to search in a mutli-dimensional way. However, once again, its success relies on user engagement. Facebook it seems, has placed its future in our hands- if we want Facebook, we must make use of it!
Facebook’s latest announcement, its shift to a more user-friendly platform, signifies an obvious attempt at leveraging the mobile market, which has remained a rather untapped source up to this point. With the majority of us accessing Facebook via our smartphones rather than desktops, local search undoubtedly holds a wealth of potential for Facebook. Of Facebook’s 1 million plus, regular monthly users, approximately 618 million access via their smart phones or tablets. It is predicted that by 2015 mobile internet usage will have overtaken the desktop, if this is to be, then Facebook has a good chance of making the Graph search function a success.
With 70% of all mobile searches resulting in action within one hour, it is clear we are utilizing the web more and more as a tool to inform and assist with our daily lives. There is clearly a requirement for semantic search, but it will require our own input. The ‘like’ will gain a quantifiable status since it will now be a valuable metric in its own right. However, there is still a long way to go before we can fathom the true potential of Facebook’s graph search function, in the meantime there are a number of factors to consider when using Facebook for your marketing strategy in2013.
Depth of engagement will grow in importance as Facebook turns its attentions to type of engagement rather than quantity of engagement. With this in mind the Facebook ‘like’ will only gain status as a metric within the parameters of Facebook itself. Extracting your data out of Facebook will always be pointless unless graph search manages to dominate over Google. At present, the Facebook ‘like’ only exists as an expression of a captive audience not a direct representation. In order to better evaluate your marketing efforts on Facebook measure your ROI on Facebook by calculating the resources needed to run your Facebook campaign against your results.
Whilst likes on Facebook help with SEO and enable you to access your fan base, they are to the outside world, only symbols of expression’s of engagement, each ‘like’ is different from the next. Measuring ROI directly from Facebook will ultimately be a fruitless process because each Facebook user is different. 1,000 likes does not mean that 1,000 people will post your content or engage with your posts, because everyone is different! In the same way as, a Facebook fan’s value is not equal to the cost it takes to acquire that fan. The bottom line to remember is, that people are unpredictable and organizing your marketing strategy around a business that relies upon unpredictability for its success is always going to be risky. Facebook’s value lies in its status as a platform, refrain from allowing it to dictate your social strategy.