Marketing is at times a bit like finance. You place a bet on what you think will perform, and then you wait and see. Luck plays a part in the result, but often experience adds to the success rate.
But just like an investor is not placing bets by guessing, neither are marketers. A variety of information and some intuition goes into every bet. We often base our bets on a combination of historical data, the calculated risk and the potential return.
Both marketers and investors are looking for the best return on their investments. For every dollar we spend, we want as much back as possible. For an investor, the gain is often in dollars, but for a marketer, it might be in sales growth or recognition. And while it might be easier to calculate ROI for a financial investment, the underlying mechanism is very similar.
Betting on the right thing
Marketers, just like investors, need to know how their surroundings are changing to make sure they place their bet strategically. Today, the surroundings for marketers primarily consists of algorithms: Facebook’s news feed, Google search, YouTube’s video recommendations, and some others.
When algorithms change, a bet that once was lucrative won’t pay off anymore. And while investors are quickly moving from an investment that is no longer paying off, marketers seem to keep going for a long time before they realise they should change something.
Why is that? Why do so many marketers continue with efforts that do not pay off? Is it because we are stupid? Or lazy? Is it because marketers don’t follow what’s happening in their field as closely as investors read the financial press? I don’t have an answer, but it fascinates me greatly.
Facebook marketing and ROI
Last summer the debate intensified around “fake news” and Facebook’s part in the outcome of the US presidential election. Quickly after this, the referral traffic from Facebook started to dive. The Facebook algorithm changes from time to time, but they didn’t say anything about changes at this time.
Facebook has made changes before as well. The platform has moved from being a source of free engagement and referral traffic, to become an advertising platform where you buy your impressions. These changes make a lot of sense; Facebook is a for-profit company.
As you see, betting on Facebook for marketing results comes with a high risk. If they change things on their platform, you will lose. Even if you’ve invested all your money on the Facebook platform for years now, you still might end up with nothing at the end of the day. Since you only “borrow” the relationship with your fans from Facebook, there is no real value in a Facebook page even if it has hundred thousand followers.
During 2018 we have continued to see multiple indicators suggesting the ROI on Facebook marketing is declining. When you, as a brand, publish content on Facebook today almost nothing happens. Some features, like groups and live streams, are ways for brands to still be relevant for users on the platform, but it’s very hard to get a good return on your investments.
Maybe, it’s time to take a break? At least, if you don’t have an advertising budget and if you spend a lot of time on your Facebook content and still get small results.
What to do instead of Facebook marketing
A lot of people think that digital marketing equals Facebook marketing. Some might throw Instagram and Twitter into the mix too. And while Social Media marketing is an essential part of digital marketing, one skill you should have in your toolbox, it’s not everything.
You need to move over to platforms where you have more control of your success. Brands doing content marketing should most likely focus on other platforms, and increase their focus on SEO and e-mail.
E-mail marketing and blogging
E-mail is an alternative to Facebook because your success is very closely correlated with factors you can impact. Search is another (now) stable platform, although not entirely without risk since it’s still an algorithm behind it.
Business blogging have for long been a bit uncool, “why should anyone wanna read a business blog”, but I think it is will soon have a revival. It’s safer than Facebook if you want to get back what you invest. A bonus is that more formats and topics will work in a blog setting than on Facebook. To be successful, you don’t have to do 45-second videos with text in the frame.
Podcasts and YouTube
Podcasts and YouTube will also become more popular when Facebook investments are no longer creating great returns. YouTube is apparently the second largest search-engine in the world, after Google, so there’s potentially an even more significant return to make from this platform. Podcasts are unique because users can use multiple technical solutions to consume your content, something that almost makes it similar to e-mail and reduces the investment risk.
Not that many marketers are very good at working with podcasts or YouTube today unless it is one-offs or sponsorships. Much of the best material is instead generated by “Podcasters” or “Youtubers”, with the content as their core product. But both these platforms now feels more stable than many other content platforms (as long as you are not trying to use it to make a living and don’t have to care about the compensations models), and the potential audiences are large.
How I try to place my bets
Personally, I began to refocus my Facebook marketing initiatives for most clients or projects last summer. More than a year ago (maybe earlier) I moved away from Twitter and Snapchat and recommended others to do it too. The platforms weren’t delivering enough results, and the risk of them just disappearing felt too big to for the small ROI they produced.
Instead, I’ve started this blog, and I have an e-mail newsletter (you can subscribe in the sidebar to the right). I’m also looking at starting a pod or a YouTube channel when I have the time. Sure, this tiny blog is not Spotify, but I would probably recommend them too to move away from Facebook at the moment.
My focus is on consistency and not quantity. It’s often wise not to hurry when it comes to scaling content initiatives; it takes time to build an audience.