Why Brands Should Still be Excited about Facebook

It’s fair to say that after a rough year, Facebook isn’t the flavor of the month for all marketers. But as we look through the unfavorable headlines, examine the most recent quarterly results and most importantly, look at the performance we are driving for our clients, we see plenty of reasons to be excited about the platform and here’s why.

They’re doubling down on user privacy and brand safety. 

2018 should be seen as a wake-up call, rather than a downward-spiral from which there’s no coming back. We’ve seen Facebook reign in the “move fast and break things” mindset and invest heavily in restoring user trust, which can pave the way to long-term success.

The social network is investing heavily in protecting user privacy and promoting safe advertising practices – pivoting away from shorter-term profit maximization. The ongoing hiring spree has seen headcount increase 36% YoY, including high-profile privacy experts and Blockchain specialists.

For Advertisers, the initial reaction to these data breaches was to reel back targeting methods that could be viewed as intrusive or discriminatory, tightening the process around political advertising, and reducing their number of third-party partners.

Clearly there is a lot ahead in this department as the regulation conversation rumbles on in Washington and Europe, but for now we see many of these amendments as not only positive, but setting a precedent for the industry.

The eponymous app still dominates.

It’s been reported that the users’ time spent on Facebook is down and some are deleting the app, however the numbers are telling us quite the opposite. Facebook grew Daily and Monthly Active Users by 8% YoY to 2.7Bn, with 1.56BN returning daily in Q1 2019. Growth is apparent in all markets and the scale of Facebook’s advertising opportunity is still unrivaled.

Studies have shown that engagement is also down on the platform. This makes sense if you concentrate on traditional post engagement but this doesn’t reflect the changing nature of media consumption and engagement on Facebook.

Brands need to pay attention to the shift from a purely feed-based environment to a more diverse set of arenas, which includes longer attention moments like Facebook Watch and In-stream video. These give advertisers the opportunity to land complex messages in a sound-on environment; this mirrors a wider digital trend of people consuming longer-form content on mobile devices.

Facebook Stories, Messenger and Marketplace have also recently diversified how we can reach people in different contexts.  Because of these new platforms, creative consideration is becoming even more important in strategic ad placement.

Instagram is a highly effective commerce platform.

With over 1bn MAUs, Instagram continues to be an attention powerhouse. Again, the way in which users are consuming media on the app is changing; Stories has continued its rise to over 500MM MAUs giving advertisers the opportunity to be creatively playful whilst longer-form content is being consumed via IGTV. User habits evolve with these changes, but clearly people are using Instagram for more than the basic vertical dining shot. 

Our client’s Instagram advertising results have shown a great amount of consumer purchase intent and both large and small retail brands are enjoying strong return on ad spend. As a result, a lot of product resource is going into unlocking latent demand and truncating the path to purchase. The prospect of having direct payments through Instagram Checkout is the most exciting development in our space since the heady days of the Lead Form.

Creating a more cohesive ecosystem.

In January, the New York Times reported that Mark Zuckerberg is leading a project to link WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger, with a common ‘core’, so that messaging between the apps becomes seamless. This could definitely happen in 2020.

In March, he followed up with his vision for the platform’s future, and it looks likely that users will benefit from encrypted messaging, shifting Facebook from an intrinsically public, to a private social platform. It remains to be seen how that would affect advertisers and Facebook’s business model, which has been purely geared around ads since around 2011.

Here at iProspect, we expect these moves to be positive in retaining users over the long run and gives the potential for a more holistic platform with powerful ad solutions. We have expected a closer alignment of the family of apps since the acquisition of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014, doubtless, we are at the start of a longer process of integration inspired by WeChat. As we have known for some time, advertisers should be gearing their strategies around the Facebook family of apps holistically.

As you can see, social media continues to be one of the most dynamic advertising channels for marketers, with Facebook continuing to lead the charge. Perceptive advertisers have a lot to gain from embracing change and refining their strategies as Facebook continues to evolve.