I’ve had it. I mean it, I’ve really had it. One more blog post about how Facebook is hurting brands by charging them to use their platform as a marketing tool and my head is going to explode. What university marketing program told them that advertising was free? I was recently interviewed for a story that was eventually titled Brands Rethink Facebook’s Role. Facebook has spent tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars on creating an ad platform that can at the very least guarantee impressions, along with analytics to measure engagement. Were they supposed to give it away? Are any of the brands using Facebook to advertise giving away their products for free?
Let’s back up a bit. It wasn’t all that long ago that social networks like Twitter and Facebook had no revenue plans. It was a bit of a free for all. Early adopters experimented with what you could get away with for little to no money for their employers and clients. Hell, I experimented with social media campaigns on Prodigy in the early 90s. But that’s the key. When those social networks were young, before they gave birth to thousands of “social media ninjas” (a term that still confuses me), when early press reports began to leak that such-and-such a brand just blew the needle off the dial with a Twitter stunt, before you could do much of anything to measure results, some of us were banging our heads against corporate walls trying to convince brands to try something new, something risky, something that none of their competitors were doing. Beyond the cost of man hours to execute campaigns or develop creative, these channels stayed free. Once traditional marketers and brands caught on, once measurement tools began to pop up, once a Google search for “how to run a social media campaign on Facebook” yielded 625 million results, it was game over. Sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter sat up and realized that they could make money from brands using their platform, just like building owners in the early 1900s realized they could sell sign space on the side of their building. It was inevitable once everyone jumped on board.
Brands and marketers that pine for the old days of free marketing in the social space weren’t generally the ones in on the ground floor. Those that took a risk, experimented or did it on the sly were. They benefitted greatly from being early adopters. Guess, what, they’ve shifted paid Facebook engagement over to the media department and their social teams are experimenting and taking risks in social networks you’ve never heard of. There is a whole new segment of anonymous social networks that marketers haven’t touched and a consumer movement toward personal data and wearable devices that are both ripe for experimentation. Or, you could jump on Twitter’s new video ad platform and wonder why they don’t work.
Steve Jobs once said “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust on something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” It may be scary but it’s very easy to connect the dots of what has worked in the past in social media and replicate it: be an early adopter, experiment, try new things, think out of the box or don’t. Just please stop whining about having to pay to advertise!