Facebook now second most popular site but not all is well: agencies complain!

Yesterday, Compete.com got some new traffic data out. The big news (well, maybe it’s not news anymore) is that Facebook is now the second most visited site in the US with 134 million unique visitors last month.

Now, what should we make of these numbers? We know that Facebook has a lot of users, we know it’s been the king of social networks for a while now and since yesterday we also know that it’s the second most visited site in the U.S. (well, at least last month).

But does it really matter in the end? In the early days of online marketing and advertising, having the most eyeballs was a must for every online publisher and medium since eyeballs meant revenues: CPM, display ads, remember?

And, with Facebook changing its strategies and policies (more about these policies later) very often lately, it’s not really cashing in on eyeballs. Remember what we wrote earlier this week about that.

OK, Facebook has other sources of revenues, but it’s time the company makes up its mind. It’s increasingly confusing advertisers but agencies too.

Agencies: Facebook is really making it tough for us

Last week-end I received an email from a leading agency with the title “By bye Facebook”. The subject: the new terms, conditions and guidelines that haven been implemented by Facebook (again without warning but hey, “you have to find out yourself”) and a lot of discontent as a result from that.

I quote the CEO from that agency, Erwin Jansen, co-CEO of These Days /Wunderman in Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxemburg: “Facebook is really making it tough for us”.

It’s not the first time I hear that or receive emails like that. Erwin is just one of those experienced guys that doesn’t mind sharing what he thinks and he and his company knows what interactive marketing is all about, from a 360 degrees viewpoint (if you doubt that, check out the Awards they won in Cannes, New York and plenty of other places). For the record: I am not working for them or any other agency in the world, I just know lots of them, in and outside Europe. 

Also for the record: the complaints are not about traditional advertising possibilities, they are about the stuff most agencies and their customers (your customers too, Facebook) use, know and embrace on the king of social networks: Pages, apps, etc.

I will get back to you about those new rules and how agencies have to discover them soon. Other media already talked a bit about them.

For now, let’s say that some people are getting fed up with Facebook’s changing policies. I’m not talking users of course, that’s what Compete’s data clearly prove.

Let me also give you a simple and personal example: as we speak, I’m finishing a book on social media marketing. It will not be published or publicly available, it’s for other purposes. 

Since I started writing it, about two months ago, I had to change the part about Facebook like ten times. I even wrote in it (it’s for a local market) that right now, marketers that want to use traditional forms on advertising on social networks, best stick to the local players for a while because, at least, they are quite stable in what they offer (and yes, I know, Facebook is not the best destination for traditional forms of advertising, it’s great for advertisers that want to go far beyond that and engage people).

Back to Compete.com. On the Compete blog I read, and know I quote: “While eyeballs are newsworthy, the real story is engagement, especially in the ongoing battle for those coveted big brand dollars. On this front, Facebook is second to none”. 

According to a Compete graphic, monthly “attention” (the time spent on a web site as a percentage of all time spent online each month) “ramps over the past year for Facebook, while both Yahoo and Google show a decrease”. 

Why Facebook needs agencies

I quote again: “in January, 11.6% of all time spent online was spent on Facebook (in comparison to to 4.25% for Yahoo and 4.1% for Google)”.

Nice and indeed a proof that what Facebook calls “social advertising” might be the way to go but, people at Facebook, can you please make up your mind about guidelines for advertisers and your strategy, talk about them and communicate? 

If Facebook wants Madison Avenue to forget about display ads and go engagement (which I strongly applaud) it should realize one thing: it will need full support of agencies. They are the ones that will bring marketers to Facebook with smart, great, efficient, creative and valuable campaigns, both for advertisers and Facebook users.

I also asked my friend, blog contributor and managing partner of social media marketing agency Mindjumpers, Jonas Klit Nielsen, what his take is on the role of agencies for Facebook.

This is what Jonas answered: “Before I started Mindjumpers, I spent 10 years working at different media broadcasting corporations in Denmark, primarily as responsible for sales at the largest commercial radio stations. As probably most experienced sales directors from a mass media will tell you – you need an access to clients, but you also need to be on good terms with agencies – probably around 80% of our sales came through media or advertising agencies! Now what is the difference between Facebook or a radio station? They both serve the public and have to make a living from advertisers, of course Facebook can try charging $10 a month to every user and be independent of advertisers, but that scenario is probably not right around the corner. So my appeal to Facebook is to embrace the agencies, advise them in the use of Facebook and help them make Facebook become an actually good business case. As Cuba Gooding Jr. said in Jerry Maguire – ‘Help me – Help you!’”

Well, given the mails I get and the discontentment I hear around me, Facebook is losing agency support.

If you talk the talk, walk the walk: a message to Facebook, Twitter and all the others

What does Jonas think about Facebook’s changing policies, terms and collaboration with agencies?

On one hand he understands what Facebook is trying to do: limiting the number of ad placements in a quest not to forget what it’s all about: protecting its users (and thus also traffic and user engagement) and keeping Facebook the place where you meet people, stay in touch with friends, etc.
However, he says, “out in the real world, there are rules for advertising, on Facebook they are people-driven (word of mouth) and my guess is that Facebook is scared about what its users will accept regarding marketing”.
His conclusion: “I understand what Facebook´s intention is, but on the other hand, they are pissing agencies off because they lack the creativity, interest but most of all the resources to help the agencies. It’s a bit like Google. Google understands this better but among agencies the company is not that popular, because of often being unapproachable and sometimes even near arrogant, when it comes to sales”.

Of course the board at Facebook might think, given the amazing stats from Compete, “we rule, we decide, they follow”. Facebook wouldn’t be the first giant taking that mentality when things are going better and better. But we all know what happens next, right? No? Well, think about what happened to Icarus when he came too close to the sun.

They could also think, as Jonas says “users first”. That’s cool, I can live with that, I applaud it. But one of these days, Facebook is going to have to come up with a clear, consistent and possibly stable model for agencies and advertisers.

And it will have to start treating agencies like people too: c-o-n-v-e-r-s-a-t-i-o-n. If you talk the talk, walk the walk!

By the way, the same really begins to become urgent for other social networks like Twitter because, as you will read in upcoming posts that took me a lot of, well, investigative journalism: it’s a jungle out there right now!

Agree, disagree? Shout it out. If you work for an agency I would really like to hear from you. If you’re at Facebook, I would say: “join the conversation”.

And for those that like nice graphs and stats, check out the post on Compete’s blog.

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2 thoughts on “Facebook now second most popular site but not all is well: agencies complain!”

  1. You’re missing the point of what Facebook is trying to do. They don’t care about “agencies” and, although you have friends at them, you shouldn’t either. Facebook IS the agency in the new paradigm. They expect companies to have PR departments who actively manage campaigns directly – just like Google expects. If you want to blame someone for this paradigm shift, blame Google. Facebook is just following the curve. If your agency buddies want to keep display advertising on Facebook, they should do so through Microsoft adCenter while that relationship lasts. I personally recommend companies use internal talent or hire consultants like me to manage new media campaigns, not agencies 🙂

  2. Thx for your comment, Sean, but I have to say I completely disagree with you here. Do you really truly believe that advertisers will create ingenious and valuable campaigns themselves? And do you really truly believe that a few SMM consultants are able to help companies having an integrated marketing approach including social media marketing? I was a consultant and I know the answer is “no way”. BTW: my “agency buddies” do not engage in display ads, they develop social media strategies, focusing on ENGAGEMENT, VALUE, CREATIVITY etc. and that’s not something you do with display ads. They also take care of analytics, ROMI, and much more. I think you might have misunderstood that part of the message. However, believing that Facebook IS the agency, according to my humble opinion, is really overestimating social networks. And believing consultants (and this is not personal, again, I was one too) can help a business to really have an intelligent, holistic, calculated and integrated social media marketing approach is overestimating consultants and underestimating 360 degree agencies. And I think you might overestimate SOME marketers and businesses too (sssjjjtttt, don’t tell anyone). Now, that doesn’t mean that some agencies suck too. But I really disagree. Fortunately people sometimes do 🙂 Don’t stop the discussion, ask others to join it, let’s talk and think!

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