As a user, Facebook is frustrating, and as an advertiser, it’s downright useless.
Humans are skilled at ignoring the visual vomit around them, and these are skills that have been perfected over many years of increasingly desperate advertising techniques – from the subliminal to the ridiculous.
Stealing 5 minutes to get critical updates on the latest cat meme is what Facebook is all about, and monetising that experience has mostly been limited to targeted advertising (selling your personal details to advertisers so that they can craft ads most likely to drive a response). But with just $10 of annual revenues from each of its 600m or so engaged users Facebook has a long way to go to satisfy its many Shareholders’ many expectations!
The real challenge for Facebook though is that economically it’s still a One Trick Pony with 8 out of every 10 dollars of revenue coming from advertising. So how does Facebook outgrow the rebounding economy in order to drive up shareholder returns?
I think they have three pillars of advertising growth ahead of them, each of which will likely trade off user experience for advertiser revenue:
More advertising inventory – as the rate of subscriber growth slows more inventory is required to avoid an overall slide in the supply of advertising space – meaning more of the Facebook page will be dedicated to paid media resulting in a poorer user experience
More personal advertising – Facebook will give as much data as it can to advertisers to make the advertising product more effective – meaning Facebook will go even further to leverage their users’ personal data
More interruptive advertising – as consumers get better at ignoring the Advertising Vomit, Facebook will push its products to become more interruptive, meaning you have to wait for them to finish or actively “push” them out of the way. A poorer experience but one that is likely to yield more clicks for the advertiser.
And yet, the real challenge here for Facebook is that it just isn’t a great place to advertise for most businesses. It’s neither a great Brand advertising platform, nor is it a great Performance advertising platform – and in this analytically informed world of Marketing, the investment required to evaluate the effectiveness of an advertising platform is lower than ever before – meaning most big advertising dollars have already come and gone.