A Marketer's Lens: Don't grumble over challenges

Fox Sports head of marketing, brand & social, Chris Gross
By Fox Sports head of marketing, brand & social, Chris Gross | 19 January 2017
Chris Gross.

A version of this article first appeared in The Annual 2016 as part of The PhotoEssay series.

“But Facebook changed the algorithm!” is a common cry in the marketing community; a complaint that to me feels misdirected. It poses a challenge but shouldn’t be seen as an excuse to grumble. Rather, it should serve as an opportunity for brands to create better content that aligns with the changing objectives of the world’s biggest social media platform and the consumption patterns of its users.

Take a step back. Let’s remember that Facebook has a responsibility to generate profit for its shareholders like any business and it will make decisions that are in its business' interests. For now the dominant source of revenue for Facebook is advertising.

So, of course Mark Zuckerberg will carefully tinker with that model to extract more revenue. Facebook has been doing that since day dot, so for marketers to play the ignorance card of not seeing another change to the algorithm coming is misguided and borderline irresponsible.

The algorithm is seen as a mysterious, elusive thing. Too clever, ‘cody’ and concealed for us to fully comprehend. Some have argued that we’ve come to see algorithms with reverence, as a higher power out there, and even as a new type of theology by some. A major change to the Facebook algorithm can make us feel frustrated, defeated or cheated. But, algorithms are not some secret source from the future. It depends on our input to function – and our energy, imagination and collaboration to shape its potential.

Our reliance on Facebook is undoubtedly strong and potentially problematic. Marketing budgets increasingly tip more towards it as highlighted by Facebook’s astronomical quarter−on−quarter growth. But, it’s the responsibility of marketers to explore options within and outside Facebook that diversify the source of business outcomes. 

At Fox Sports we have been focused on continually addressing and re−addressing our tactics to ensure we do this. We are for sport and that means we stand for celebrating and breaking news about sport with an Australian focus. As we have focused on the ecosystem of Facebook we’ve seen our page footprint go from one to 12 pages, which across these now publish over a thousand pieces of content a week. This content receives five million post engagements on an off−week and quadruple that when we strike gold.  

But instead of bemoaning Facebook's changing model, would we prefer change of a different kind? With its 1.8 billion users last quarter, Facebook could yield the same revenue and exponentially more profit by simply charging users a monthly fee of $1.29. Falsely, and naively, assuming all 1.8 billion would actually pay, overnight it could create an entirely ad−free environment and close the door on a powerful platform for brands to engage in meaningful dialogue with fans and customers.

I know what scares me more between that fictitious option and Facebook tinkering with its algorithm. Where others might see inconvenience and disruption, at Fox Sports we see evolution and opportunity for ever−stronger storytelling.

By Fox Sports head of marketing, brand and social, Chris Gross

For more see:

A Marketer's Lens: Print is a key force in our marketing mix, by Domain's top marketer Melina Cruickshank

A version of this article first appeared in The Annual 2016 as part of The PhotoEssay series. The theme this year, was broad. Simply: 'discuss'. AdNews editor Rosie Baker asked marketers to write about 'elephant in the room' topics. The taboo subjects that are a concern, and get talked around - but never fully addressed. What in their businesses are the friction points, the bones of contention - where do they see the industry going to hell in a hand basket.

The photoshoot aimed to capture the heated conversation and boisterous discussion of topics that only emerge in the aftermath of a dinner party. The equivalents of politics, religion and sex in marketing and advertising. These will be the topics that dominate the agenda in 2017. Download the digital version of the magazine for $4.49 to see the whole series.

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