On Tuesday 22nd January, Facebook launched a new conversion measurement and optimization system for direct response marketers. It's big, big news for marketers seeking a tangible ROI from Facebook promotions, especially adverts. Facebook’s advertising model has become increasingly sophisticated in recent years, with its flotation on the stock market no doubt a driving force behind such changes.
For those diligently integrating Facebook and other social platforms into marketing and PR strategies as a whole, massive levels of success have been achieved. Thousands of brands will testify to that. What’s harder to assess is specifically what benefit social activity has to a brand. Increased engagement? Check. A boost in positive sentiment? Absolutely. Some nice referrals to the your website? Thousands. But how much money has it made the brand? That one is a bit trickier. And to your average board member, it can be a deal breaker. Most brands cannot justify spend of any kind without demanding anything from two, three, four or even 20 times ROI.
Now, those of us approaching this from a marketing or PR perspective will know that ROI is not the critical metric to measure success on social. It just doesn’t work that way. Put simply: social is a subjective medium with objective measures. This gives rise to plethora of issues, such as whether social media should sit within PR or marketing (or both), but finding an answer to that question is not the purpose of this post. And call me cynical, but I don’t think the issue is keeping Mr Zuckerberg up at night either, hence why Facebook has launched its new offering. Its conversion measurement and optimization system will pander perfectly to those seeking the aforementioned ROI figures, but concentrating solely on such endeavors seems counter-productive and in contradiction to the very fabric of Facebook’s ethos. Facebook has always been about connecting people, allowing them to engage with brands and other people with common interests. And whilst this new offering won’t stop that happening, I think it will encourage brands to focus more time, money and effort into measurable ad spend rather than looking to forge deep, meaningful relationships with their fans. Facebook is dangling a juicy carrot in front of marketers and I fear it could cause an undesirable shift in how brands engage with their fans.
That said, I think there is a place for Facebook’s conversion measurement and optimization system. For brands seeking a definitive action such as a sign up or a sale, using the system in conjunction with campaigns where engagement is the core objective would provide useful additional impetus that is measurable.
To me, this new Facebook offering should be used as an addition to, not a replacement for, engagement-led campaigns. I fear that the bright lights and lure of measurable ROI might take precedence, to the detriment of truly creative, engaging campaigns. Time will tell if there is a comfortable middle ground between the two.