Facebook, up your advertising game

Matt Sterne
By Matt Sterne | 4 August 2014

I've been happily using Facebook for many years now. As an individual, this free platform has helped me connect with friends and family and I don't mind if the world sees me doing my best Michael Jackson impersonation in front of the mirror. Overall it's been a positive experience.

The gripes however, come thick and fast when I put my advertiser hat on. Yes, I'm one of those people that has another secret Facebook life. I'm the type of user that likes dozens of random corporate pages, tests all sorts of weird posts, likes and shares all sorts of random content and generally does a bit too much of everything.

There are some mounting issues that are beginning to really annoy me. Many of which seem to contradict the longer term strategy that Facebook has in mind.

1. Allow advertisers more creative flexibility on their pages

When Facebook released its latest update to Pages, the first thing that came to mind was, 'why do we even need a home for brands any more on Facebook?'. The page 'home', be it a personal profile or business page has become more and more redundant as the news feed is where all the engagement is at.

But why copy Twitter? Do we really need a second platform that is one big feed and profiles are just a formality around description and numbers of fans/followers?

I remember the days when pages were able to incorporate varying types of interactive media and there were more reasons to engage with them. Now, with tabs being virtually made redundant, it is almost as if Facebook has said 'if brands want to do anything sophisticated other than images and video, they should send their audience elsewhere'. Hence the rise of social aggregation platforms like Stackla and a bunch of others to actually contain social content. Hmmm yeah, I don't get this either.

So Facebook, why would you direct people out of your platform? Twitter already does a good job at this. Why would you invite brands to explore social media aggregators because Facebook no longer facilitates their needs? Think about it.

2. Allow YouTube and other video embeds to be maximised in the news feed

Facebook has been talking up video for years. It believes video is key when it comes to great social content. Boom! Damn right Facebook.

So why 'punish' social video embeds? When a brand wants to embed other forms of video into their timeline (YouTube content for example), they receive a nice little thumbnail for their troubles, instead of a beautiful full width video embed.

Ah, sneaky sneaky... I see what you are doing here, Zuck. You are rewarding the use of the Facebook video platform and decreasing engagement likelihood of other embedded media. Fine. Yet another thing you want to own. But while you are doing it, do you mind dramatically improving your own video product, because it's rubbish?

3. Reward engagement with improved algorithm reach

Here's an idea that might be a bit out there. Edge Rank Algorithm tightening now means a reach of organic content of around 4%. One more time for the dummies – paid media is essential to gain reach if you want to take your engagement seriously.

But what if Facebook actually rewarded good content with an improved reach? For example, if the advertiser and agency partner is able to produce engaging content that performs to a certain benchmark, they are rewarded with a higher algorithm reach. Use sneaky tactics, break certain rules, try to game the system, and you are penalised.

Okay this one won't fly, I know. Maybe the next gripe will.

4. Modify the 'less than 20% rule' on sponsored posts

When exactly did typography become redundant when it comes to beautiful, engaging advertising? It hasn't in the real world, but Facebook would like it to be on its platform – should you wish to put any advertising spend behind promoting your posts. An image or photo alone does not communicate a creative idea and this is incredibly frustrating for marketers and social media teams the world over.

A campaign or brand initiative involves key art where typography is part of the concept lockup. Fail – try again please. How about a simple infographic that contains typography? Fail – back to the drawing board. What about the global branding where typography is a part of the actual artwork? No. Aren't quotes engaging? Yes they are but apparently they look like spam on Facebook.

This is a ridiculous rule that even Facebook is breaking itself time and time again with unsponsored posts – evidence enough that this is a restrictive rule that does not gel with graphic design common sense.

5. Use a stories platform for longer-term platform engagement

If Facebook does actually implement this, I'd like a few bucks come my way please. But you know what? The following concept should really be complete no-brainer that someone's grandma could come up with.

Facebook has made it pretty clear that it essentially wants to make the world better through transparency of information and increased sharing of thoughts and ideas. Sounds a lot like Twitter to me.

The one thing that is missing for Facebook is the idea to keep people in the platform. Why would you want your customer to fly off every time to a new resource, link, other social platform etc?

Here is a tip Facebook – turn the Facebook Stories platform into a microblogging platform. Yes, essentially copy what medium has achieved for Twitter. But make it more seamless. Currently, brands are using every other possible method for traditional editorial content apart from yours. Give brands an easy, lightweight method to publish SEO-rich articles. Take the old concept of 'Notes' and blow it up using under the Stories umbrella. Keep users within your ecosystem for longer. Make Facebook a further extension of their marketing strategy.

Final thoughts: Don't lose sight of what made social networks great. The ability to customise, personalise and create curated virtual garages for a variety of interactive media. A world of streamlined news feeds isn't the be-all-and-end-all of social content.

Matt Sterne is executive creative director at Edge

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