The Facebook "Like" may no longer guarantee reach, but two search experts at ClickZ Live New York say that the platform still provides the best bang for the buck in digital marketing - if companies play by the new rules.
Much grumbling goes on these days about the uselessness of the Facebook "Like" on a brand page. It is true that, with Facebook's recent adjustments to its algorithms, only about 2 percent of those who "like" a brand's page will ever see its' posts in their news feeds.
But, according to two paid search experts who spoke at ClickZ Live New York Wednesday, the platform is still the best investment out there for digital marketing dollars.
"Most other social platforms out there are still underdeveloped (in terms of ads) and do not allow you to track the user experience," says Brittany Richter, supervisor of paid social at digital marketing company iProspect.
Co-panelist Tara Siegel, supervisor of paid social at eBay Enterprise, was even more bullish on Facebook.
"Facebook is a revenue-driving medium," Siegel says. She points to bracelet maker Alex and Ani, an eBay Enterprise client that decided last year to focus strongly on targeting new customers via Facebook. "On Thanksgiving Day, they drove more revenue on Facebook than on Google and Bing," she says.
According to a case study of the company, Facebook ads drove $1.6 million in revenue at Alex and Ani between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday last year.
Companies who shift away from a focus on "Likes" and fans, and start emphasizing how to best used paid, targeted advertising on Facebook will see success, the two search experts say. But that is only if brands play by the new rules, which means "pay to play."
Although the free ride is over, Richter believes it ultimately benefits advertisers.
"Organic content on a lot of platforms has become crowded and noisy as more brands and users sign up. Paid social allows for the user experience to stay intact on Facebook. That's good for advertisers, too, because not that many ads can show up at the same time, which eliminates noise and gets their ads more attention," says Richter.
"Although ad dollars are now necessary, the good news is that the platforms are becoming more sophisticated and you are able to make your audience more qualified. Money is going further," she adds.
But it takes focused attention to get results on Facebook, the two agreed. Instead of hazy "engagement" goals, that means tightly linking a company's business objectives - whether that be increased brand awareness or increased revenues - with paid social efforts. It also means that social must be integrated into a company's overall media plan.
"Social deserves a seat at the table when it is time to develop a communications plan," says Richter. "We are seeing a lot of blurred lines between social, display, and search. So start with a business objective and see how each channel best fits into that. You need a holistic, integrated approach."
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Mary Lisbeth D'Amico is a freelance writer based in Jersey City who frequently covers digital marketing, social media, tech startups, and venture capital. She has contributed to a wide range of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Red Herring, and Real Deals. Find her on Twitter at @mldamico.
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