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September 5, 2011 Bored of Facebook by Paul Taylor

By Paul Taylor

Facebook: the figures speak for themselves. July 2011, in the UK alone, over 31 million unique visitors, eleven minutes the average visit, 13 million daily visitors, over 35 average visits per visitor with more than 22 million pages viewed.

An advertiser’s dream – a huge, engaged, and focused audience. Communications has never looked so good.

So why when I work within advertising do I feel such resentment to it?

The press have recently reported of the ‘dramatic decline of Facebook’, yet the reality isn’t quite so bleak: total uniques are only down 4% year-on-year.

So why the resentment?

It’s because of its limitations, and its predictability – a walled garden, limited control over the environment and the ‘sameness’ of the overall user experience. Facebook is a great way for brands to engage with their audience, and an excellent way to enter into dialogue with them.

You only have to watch a commercial, flick through a magazine, click on a banner or cast your eyes at a billboard and 9 times out of ten the destination is Facebook.

I guess no one is to blame – the audience is there, the results that are reported are good. The clients want Facebook and agencies recommend it within their strategy & plans. But as the final destination for an ad campaign, to drive sales? Probably not.

Having worked in advertising/digital/communications for many years it saddens me that with campaigns we’re more often than not seeing the one-size-fits-all solution, and we know from experience in comms that there’s no such thing.

Within the advertising/digital/communications industries there are many great minds, and over the years I’ve seen many innovative multi-channel campaigns where the digital element would surprise, delight and inspire me.

The resentment I feel isn’t of Facebook as an entity; it’s of the complacency within the industry, be it commissioners or those carrying out the work who, time after time, see Facebook as the only option. I’m as guilty as anyone else, I’d like to add!

Take it as a warning sign to an industry that takes great pride in describing itself as creative, and one I’m proud to be part of.

Audiences are naturally fickle. There will (in the near future) come a time when audiences become immune and unresponsive to the obligatory ‘Like us’ call-to-action.

A recent article appeared on Adage (http://adage.com/article/digital/brands-facebook-a-loyalty-program/229561/) regarding research undertaken by DDB Worldwide and Opinionway Research that has shown that 84% of a typical brand’s Facebook fans are existing customers. The article goes on to say that we should approach Facebook marketing as “a customer relationship management program than a customer-acquisition tool”.

This lends further weight to my argument. If your advertising is aimed at growing FMCG sales and your customer base, then is a Facebook destination really appropriate for marketing?

If you want to stand out from the crowd, do something different. I’ll applaud the brave souls who decide to innovate; who come up with strategies that pick or develop other options available to them from the rich digital tapestry.

Within the digital sector we’re very good at innovation, brave ideas and reinvention. Just look at how the ‘Tippex Man Hunts a Bear’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ba1BqJ4S2M) reinvigorated not only a tired viral creative scene but a product and category that was mature. So are we going to try something different in our next campaign?

I was delighted when #CommsChat asked me to write this for the re-launch of popular Monday night communications discussions. Having had the pleasure of hosting an evening on #CommsChat I’ve seen the different opinions and intelligent debate on a whole range of communication issues, it’s a great place for discussing trends, events and a myriad of communication subjects. Hopefully, this post will also generate some lively discussion.

See you @CommsChat!

Paul Taylor, COI @paulctayla


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