Is Facebook dead?

My name is Grant, and I’m an addict.

Facebook is my drug of choice. And I’m not alone.

Facebook have hooked over 2 billion other users to affirmation-induced likes… that quick hit from tapping the little red notification dot… and hitting a vein of superficial click-bait content. Those same users are also enraged, yet equally hooked, by fake news, bullying trolls, and they are drawn into arguments they’ll never win with people they’ve never met.

As marketers, we’re equally addicted to the platform.

Free, organic traffic and relatively inexpensive clicks in the early days was the gateway drug to a powerful Ad Platform that has kept me, and countless other marketers, coming back for fantastic results.

However, the addicts are starting to get restless after years of chasing the dragon. We’ve all been spending longer on the social platform, but feeling increasingly unsatisfied and guilty about all that wasted time.

Facebook has recognized this and recently announced they are making big changes to their algorithm to favor content from people over businesses. These efforts are the result of them paying attention to recent studies showing the unhealthy impact of social media. Some high-level executives and co-founders, like Sean Parker, have been quite vocal about not wanting to get high on their own supply.

Facebook have acknowledged that these self-imposed changes will result in people spending less time on the platform. You’d be forgiven for thinking this is a noble, altruistic gesture. The truth is, like any smart drug dealer, they’d rather keep their addicts alive than have them overdose and leave the platform completely.

The cost to marketers

Whether it’s a case of Zuckerberg developing a conscience, or if it’s just a smart business move, there can be no doubt that these changes will have a major impact on marketers.

The biggest one being the increase in cost to reach your desired audience.

Organic reach has already been declining over the past few years, and these latest changes are really the final nail in the coffin… and now, the cost to advertise on Facebook is going to increase significantly.

It all comes down to this…

Facebook’s largest inventory is their Newsfeed. As users spend less time on the platform, they have fewer opportunities to see ads. It’s simple supply and demand mathematics of an auction-based system.

In a recent article, Kunal Gupta calculated that the cost for advertisers will rise by a whopping 79% in the next year.

Personally, I think it will be much higher.

There are 6 million advertisers on Facebook. And competition will keep increasing. There are already over 100 million business Pages. Many of these Pages aren’t yet advertising, and the recent changes will force a lot of them to start paying to play for their social traffic.

Of course, the few advertisers with the deepest pockets will continue to win more of the auctions.

As direct response marketers, we know what we can afford to pay, and if we want to stay on the platform, the increased cost is a bullet we must bite.

However, there’s another serious problem for advertisers that may have a greater cost than rising ad spend.

Compliance — the dirty word no one likes to talk about.

Unfortunately, it has become a growing problem that can’t be ignored.

It’s not just the recent crackdown on crypto ads that I’m talking about. On the face of it, Facebook doesn’t seem to particularly like info publishers. Frankly, they just don’t get our business model and instead they are chasing e-commerce and big brands.

As a result, we’re seeing more ad disapprovals and entire ad account suspensions.

What should marketers do?

Does this mean Facebook is dead for marketers?

Not exactly. It’s still an incredibly powerful platform and one you should continue to use. But you’ll definitely have to make serious plans to protect yourself too.

Here are my recommendations:

  1. Test alternative strategies on Facebook Consider more content-rich landing pages or sell more traditional based products, like physical (rather than virtual) books. Run video ads.
  2. Up your game on Instagram Instagram has improved a lot over the last year, especially when it comes to direct response. The user base continues to increase, and will soon exceed 1 billion, likely fueled further by more users jumping ship from Facebook. There’s even an opportunity for free organic reach. But the real, scalable opportunity is with Instagram advertising.However, most marketers tend to lump their Instagram placements together with their Facebook campaigns. That’s because Instagram is owned by Facebook and ads are run through the same platform.I suggest creating separate Ad Sets that allow you to run from an Instagram account (not your Facebook) page, get greater distribution, and make use of the different Ad Units and creative. (Watch this space soon for more specific Instagram strategies).
  3. Use Messenger to get 70% open rates Yes, Messenger is another Facebook-owned platform but it has huge potential on the organic side for both acquisition and communication.Once you engage someone on Messenger, you have essentially opted them onto a list that allows you to send regular direct messages to them. (It includes the ability to collect their email addresses and build two lists at once). You can use software, like Manychat, to send your messages at scale and get open rates of 70% or more.Without a doubt, Messenger will soon become saturated and those open rates will likely start to decline. I also expect Facebook will eventually force advertisers to pay to reach more users through Messenger, just as they’ve done with Page fans.But for now, you have the chance to get the attention of your prospects and be ready to take advantage of opportunities like one-click payments integrated straight into Messenger. Plus, there are already advertising options within Messenger you should be testing.
  4. Diversify outside of Facebook Since Instagram and Messenger are both owned by Facebook, you should absolutely look into scaling up on channels not owned by the social media giant too.In her excellent article last week, Christina Clapp discussed some strategies for diversifying and scaling up.I’m a big believer in constantly testing — and revisiting — alternative Ad Platforms.Native Ad Networks are already established as a significant channel for most of the Agora businesses. New ones continue to emerge while existing ones are always improving and adding new inventory.Bing is the forgotten Ad Platform that now has 9% of the search engine traffic worldwide. It accounts for 33% of search in the US, a quarter of search engine activity in the UK and many parts of Asia, and double digits in many other countries. (See Bing’s breakdown by country here.)
  5. Quora continues to improve. Since I gave this question and answer engine a test drive last year, they have now released lookalike audiences to join their impressive question, topic, and interest-based targeting.
  6. Perhaps the platform I’m the most excited about is Amazon. Just between us (and anyone who will listen to me), I’m digging a little deeper into a few strategies to leverage this worldwide shopping and publishing powerhouse. Watch this space for more soon.
  7. Invest in email Your email list will always be your biggest asset. The recent changes to Facebook are a reminder of how fickle those “social lists” can be. So, keep using Facebook and other channels for lead gen to reach those readers with messages you know will convert them to customers.

For now, Facebook is not yet dead. But it’s exposing a few wrinkles in its old age. There’s no doubt there’s a social backlash that is causing users to either leave the platform or spend less time on it. That’s definitely going to increase advertising cost on the platform.

As Facebook attempts to clean up its News Feed, there will be more hurdles for advertisers to run the messages and products we want on their platform.

They’ll need to ramp up their inventory outside of the Newsfeed to remain a competitive option for direct response marketers over the coming years. There’s a good chance they’ll be able to do that, and I’m certainly not suggesting you stop running Facebook Ads in the meantime.

But you’ll be wise to keep investing significant amounts of our media spend in new channels and trying to wean ourselves off an over-reliance off them.

I guess I’m not ready to go cold turkey yet. I’m definitely spending less time on Facebook as a user, but as a marketer, I’m not quitting… just trying to find balance and moderation on a platform that is becoming increasingly over-regulated and restrictive.

P.S. Ad Platforms aren’t the only things to use as your “methadone treatment” to wean off Facebook. It’s good to find third-party email lists or publishers you can run your ads with directly, without restrictive Ad Platform policies.

If you’re a publisher with a list or website email me and we can share it with our readers.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by 296,127+ people.

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