Facebook has undoubtedly changed the advertising scene for good. Over the past decade, the meaning of the word “Like” has gradually shifted from teenage conversation filler to digital marketing gold for companies trying to take advantage of what social media has to offer. However, according to a recent article by the Wall Street Journal, this could be bad news for Facebook. While some companies have dedicated a substantial amount of their budget to other Internet giants, such as Google or Yahoo, much less money has gone toward traditional Internet advertising on Facebook. Why? Because many companies feel they can give themselves just as much of presence on Facebook by creating Facebook fan pages and campaigns that are a fraction of the cost to create and run.
The WSJ article cites Ford Motor Co. as its prime example of this phenomenon, particularly its use of a crude, orange puppet named Doug on the 2012 Ford Focus free Facebook page. Dozens of videos featuring Doug doing goofy things inside the Focus were posted on the page. Eventually, through fan recommendations and just plain old word-of-mouth, Doug’s page earned over 43,000 “likes” (standing at 43,687 right now). So what’s the problem? Well, according to WPP, Ford spent over $95 million on advertising space for the 2012 Focus – less than five percent of that went toward actual paid advertising on Facebook.
Yet, while the good people at Facebook continue to try finding a solution to this larger scale problem, smaller companies continue to flock to the site’s sidebars and banner ads. Perhaps the best explanation is that very few other websites allow a company to reach its desired demographics so easily. While the “big boys” can throw around their advertising dollars without much thought, smaller companies have to watch everything that goes out.
Taking a loose look at what Facebook was originally planning when it started the concept of “fan pages,” my opinion is that the best way to take advantage of the current Internet landscape is a perfect mixture of free social media usage backed up by more traditional advertising both on and offline.
For example, Shane Company, which has 20 jewelry stores around the country, has always used traditional mediums such as television and radio to advertise its products (the company’s current radio ad campaign is the longest running in the medium’s history). However, by backing that up with a Facebook page campaign, Shane Company was able to narrow consumers down by age and desires through “Likes” and polls. Ads on Facebook were mainly responsible for directing users to the page, as well as mentions of it through ads in other mediums. According to the Company Marketing Director Steve Coppola, the page has created an even greater “comfort level and intimacy” with consumers than the company ever had before.
So, while Facebook fiddles with specifics when it comes to advertisers using their site, there is no doubt that, if utilized correctly, the advantages of using social media as an advertising platform can come in all different ways for all parties involved.