Posted: Wednesday 9th June 2021 in Services.

This article was first published on Prolific North on 17th March 2021.

Laurence Cresswell, Paid Media Product Manager at Summit Media, challenges the notion that Facebook is the ‘one stop shop’ to success in paid social – based off the findings of the company’s recent ‘Voice of the Customer’ survey.

If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard a Facebook rep recommend increasing budget in a dynamic product ad to improve performance, I wouldn’t have to work for a living.

I get it, their job is to get clients to spend more money on Facebook and increasing DPA spend is normally a good way of rinsing a few extra pennies out of customers at the bottom of the funnel. My fear comes when clients start taking the word according to Facebook as gospel.

A private meeting here, a tour of Facebook London there, and suddenly brands start to lose sight of the bigger picture – they start to believe the Facebook preachers when they say the only option for success is to spend more money on Facebook. 

It’s safe to say there’s been a lot of controversy about performance metrics on Facebook. Yet brands are happy to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds for a Facebook lift study.

Since when did we allow students to mark their own homework? Top marks all round, Facebook take the win and your paid social manager gets a standing ovation as they enter the office. There is no denying the power of Facebook as a marketing tool, with great access to highly engaged audiences.

But as soon as a marketer trusts blindly the tool they are using, they themselves become the tool.

Juddering to a halt

Even if a brand uses third-party measurement and attribution to get a clearer idea of the impact Facebook has on their business, they still run the risk of juddering to a halt at the mere suggestion of expanding beyond the Facebook ecosystem. The myth that “if a customer isn’t on Facebook, they’re on Instagram” is an easy win for marketers too lazy to think about how potential customers use social media. 

Summit’s recent Voice of the Customer Survey looked at social media users in the UK as they went through a purchase journey. 70% of participants regularly used Facebook, 67% used Instagram – but a Facebook user was more likely to use YouTube than Instagram, and an Instagram user was only 6% more likely to use Facebook than Snapchat or TikTok. Social media users aren’t betrothed to just one platform – in fact, on average they use 3.8 different platforms regularly. 

An Analytics Partners study is often quoted when discussing multichannel marketing, and for good reason. It highlights that the highest ROI comes from having a combined approach and that there is a need to move away from channel strategies back to marketing strategies.

The same logic can be applied in the social ecosystem. If you use Facebook alone, you run the risk of only reaching 59% of users under the age of 34 (according to the Voice of the Customer Survey), and this missed opportunity can become even wider when brands consider their audience make-up.

The need to go beyond just Facebook is clear. Segmenting why a shopper might use each platform further reinforces the point.

Facebook and Instagram were the social platforms 42% of customers used to complete a purchase but, 47% more participants used Pinterest to get inspiration before a purchase than Facebook, despite a much smaller regular userbase.  21% more participants used YouTube to research a product they were considering buying than Instagram – increasing to 48% when you look at Facebook vs. YouTube – and users who already had TikTok were just as likely to make a purchase from that platform as users with Instagram or Facebook were to purchase directly from them.

We as marketers have a duty to think beyond just one channel, but this is often easier said than done. Directly comparing social platforms is hard, and requires a deep understanding of how customers use social, but it is also unique to each retailer.

WHSmiths do not have the same social challenges as Game, yet they both sell Xboxes online. Facebook ‘wins’ any direct comparison if marketers focus on scale and use Facebook’s own measurement metrics. As soon as you take a step back, consider your audience and your business objectives, you can go beyond cobbling together a quick Facebook campaign because you saw a competitor’s ad, or setting every objective as sales because “revenue is all that matters”.

While Facebook might drive the most social sales for a retailer, wider-encompassing metrics such as store visits, cost per new customer acquisition and share of voice are brilliant in holding Facebook to account against other social platforms. 

So why is Facebook still the first social port of call for many retailers? It often comes down to ease and scale. It is too easy to run a Facebook campaign, the platform is master of convenience – from the little boost button under a page post to Budget Optimiser, the ad platform has been made to cut time.

There’s also no denying a large number of potential customers are on Facebook, so reaching an engaged audience on Facebook can sometimes feel like shooting fish in a barrel. But the easiest option is not always the best. 

As marketers trying to support our clients, we need to go back to putting the customer at the heart of planning. Budget fluidity should not be reliant on the contracts you have with certain platforms or the kickbacks you get. A fancy dinner should not be all it costs for you to look the other way as platforms like Facebook lie to your clients and you should never take an advertising platforms word on the performance of a campaign.

No more repeating last year’s plan, no more ad sets without audiences, and no more using Facebook just because it’s the easy option.