The Marketing Tax: Facebook

Businesses have always demanded efficiency and agility, but with the onset of COVID, many are now taking meaningful steps to move in that direction. I have to admit, it’s been exhausting writing this piece. I’ve picked it up and put it down several times. This issue has in fact become a larger than life issue for marketers, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that Facebook and other social media platform represent an inefficient tax on businesses.

Let me explain…

Along with our team at Verasoni Worldwide, I have always taken a pragmatic approach to marketing, building integrated plans that are married directly to business objectives, reviewing, measuring, and adjusting. Yet, there’s one conundrum that continues to confound and that’s social media’s out sized share of mindshare in business, namely Facebook.

Time and again, in our experience, body of work since 2005, and in our research in the field, we have found Facebook to be one of the most inefficient marketing tools. In private conversations with CMOs and brands, they admit their frustration with this reality but believe the pressure from their boards, CEOs, peer groups in their firms, and industry prevents them from taking a more data-driven stance on the platform.

What’s Happening?

In my experience and in most instances, Facebook (and all social media included) has performed lower than client expectations time and again, yet continues to disproportionately receive attention and investment. What I’ve come to learn, and this is a theory, is that client expectations for Facebook and other social media platforms simply reflect the larger societal fascination with the idea of our connectedness; where the perceived value of the connection and the ubiquity, girth of platforms along with the off-line socio-professional peer pressure keep brands invested in Facebook one way or another. “Well everyone’s on Facebook so we have to be there,” is the claim. True, and conceptually agreed. Though the question is really at what level of investment does one “have to be there” relative to your business goals?

Let’s not forget the role of the social media industrial complex whose job is to perpetuate itself pressure and in many ways gaslight brands to “be content creators.” This powerful force along with a burning desire for vanity analytics creates a powerful addiction to Facebook (and other platforms), effectively making every business and brand a serf and Facebook its master. Make no mistake about it, if your brand isn’t looking at its Facebook positioning critically, your business is working mindlessly for Facebook and not your business. Simply put, your business is a volunteer content producer for Facebook.

Facebook Tax

Facebook, and other social media platforms, can in fact be considered an added tax on businesses that must be managed with a keen eye. The tax is not inconsequential. Like any tax, you want meaningful services in return. Businesses go out of their way to hire advisors to optimize their taxes, I would submit, the same should go for Facebook because of its inefficiencies.

Just the Facts:

According to RivalIQ’s 2020 Social Media Industry Benchmark Report, Facebook’s median engagement rate by followers is .09%.

In 2019 Hootsuite published its social media engagement study which showed Facebook engagement at 2.48% but that’s after you calculate reach, which is about 2.5%. So net, you’re engaging about ½ a person on Facebook. OptinMonster ostensibly found the same in another study the same year.

The world’s largest marketer, P&G has decreased its investment in digital/social… what do social media influencers think they know about “content development” that P&G doesn’t? AdWeek said, “When Procter & Gamble cut $200 million in digital ad spend, it increased its reach 10%.”

What’s next? All Is Not Lost.

We are always going to come back to agility and efficiency in an integrated marketing environment. It’s proven itself pre-COVID, and thrust to the forefront post. From a digital perspective, the COVID experience has demonstrated that consumers want an entirely digital experience, not simply a buying channel. So while Facebook, social and digital remain important and must be part of every marketing portfolio, it’s how businesses use them as tools, driven first by strategy, data…and within a greater context, namely an integrated approach in order to deliver lasting value, efficacy, and efficiency.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

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CEO, Verasoni. Immediate Past-Chair, Advisory Board of Seton Hall University Center For Innovation & Entrepreneurial Studies.

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Abe Kasbo

CEO, Verasoni. Immediate Past-Chair, Advisory Board of Seton Hall University Center For Innovation & Entrepreneurial Studies.