Facebook has been in the spotlight for many different cases over the past few days, weeks and months. Fake news, privacy issues, algorithm changes that affect organic reach and a growing advertising model that is currently under question.
Among all these, there has been reported a 24% decrease in the average time spent on the platform.
What can we learn from all these and how does this change affect marketers?
A closer look at the numbers
According to Nielsen’s ‘Digital Content Ratings’ report, there has been a 24% decline in the time spent per person on Facebook.
Mark Zuckerberg has already informed us earlier this year that there is an expected decline of 5% in the time spent on Facebook. This comes after the latest algorithm change that focuses on meaningful interactions to favor the users’ wellbeing when accessing the platform.
Meanwhile, Facebook also saw the slowest quarter-over-quarter percentage of the daily user growth. There was also a reduction of US users from 185 to 184 million daily active users, a market that cannot be ignored in the advertising pie.
Not everything is grim for the social platform though, as the last quarter of 2017 brought an increase in the advertising revenue by 48% YoY to $12.8B.
Moreover, when it comes to daily usage, Statista found in February that 62% of US online users access Facebook at least once a day. This shows that there is still a significant engagement and of course, Facebook still remains the most popular platform, having currently 2.2 billion monthly active users.
As we’re expecting the stats for Q1 2018, it’s time to reflect what all the recent news and stats can tell us about Facebook. Is this the right time for marketers to start adjusting their strategy?
Is this the decline of Facebook?
There has been a great discussion the last few months on the future of Facebook and what all these changes mean for the social platform. As users keep spending less time on the platform, does this mean that marketers should do the same thing?
And how is the Facebook strategy changing for the next years?
It may be too early to predict the future of Facebook, but there seems to be an interesting change that we need to keep a close eye on it until we’re able to tell if we reach a point wasting our marketing efforts on the platform.
As this is not the case yet, we need to explore what the current stats mean for our marketing activities and how can we still benefit from Facebook marketing.
What these stats mean for marketers
The rise of WhatsApp and conversational content
Facebook is not only threatened by negative PR stories and fake news, but also from a different form of communication. Social networks have been the primary method of communication for many years, but the trend is moving to private (or encrypted) messaging content.
WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber and the rest have already dominated our daily lives when it comes to communication. More and more people are using them to ensure both fast messaging, but also an improved security.
According to SimilarWeb, US users spend 23 minutes and 23 seconds each day chatting on messaging apps.
Messaging is not new, but it has evolved into a powerful version that aims to make our daily lives easier by accessing more aspects of our routine through one app.
Chat apps have also moved beyond communication, adding news stories, games, and even business opportunities. These elements have made them more appealing, with social networks, such as Facebook, losing their appeal, while messaging apps start reaching all different demographics.
This shift has led marketers to explore the rise of conversational content. It’s the trend of adjusting your marketing messages to reach new channels and new forms of communication. As more messaging apps expand their features beyond chatting, there is a new opportunity for marketers to focus on one-to-one communication, rather than sending generic public messages with no context.
There’s no surprise then that messaging apps have surpassed social networks in monthly active users at a global level.
Facebook should feel happy for the acquisition of WhatsApp back in 2014 then, as this move seems to save its global domination at a wider level. And this also leads to another wise decision which brings us to the next point.
The rise of Messenger and bots
Another shift that could be linked to Facebook’s declined usage is the rise of Messenger as part of the growing trend of messaging apps. Facebook has heavily focused on the Messenger’s growth over the last years and it now counts 1.3 billion users.
What makes Messenger a good addition to your marketing strategy is the focus on one-to-one communication along with many business features.
Messenger can help you:
- drive awareness
- Acquire customers
- Enable transactions
- Improve your customer care
The advanced use of technology and the improved use of AI and machine learning can make Messenger an important channel for marketers seeking for business results.
It is estimated that there are 2 billion messages sent on a monthly basis on Messenger between people and businesses. There are currently more than 60 million businesses on Messenger, while there are more than 100k chatbots.
As more people are using Messenger, there is also an opportunity for improving the customer experience while saving time and becoming more efficient.
Marketers are already exploring the use of Messenger and there is a prediction that efficient and correct chatbot interaction will increase from 20% in 2017 to 93% in 2022, which gives us an optimistic view of how chatbots can become an integral part of our marketing strategies.
Increasing ad costs?
As we start spending less time on Facebook, there comes a big question for marketers. Does that mean that the advertising costs will increase?
The growing competition has already brought an increase in the ad spending over the last years. This didn’t include the reduced usage from users, which may lead to further increases.
A report from eMarketer back from 2016 predicted that the ad spending will increase from $0.31 in 2016 to $0.41 in 2018 for every hour adults spend on Facebook.
The allocation between mobile and desktop show how mobile devices become more popular every year. This creates an increasing competition and the declined time spent from Facebook users can lead to further increases.
This can be a challenge for marketers to measure their ROI and how their CPA is affected by all these changes.
The increasing privacy concern and the lack of trust
Another challenge that Facebook is currently facing has to do with the growing privacy concerns. Right after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, more Facebook users are worried about their privacy.
This may bring changes on Facebook and it is useful for marketers to keep an eye on how these can possibly affect their advertising strategies.
Moreover, there seems to be a decreasing trust for social platforms, and Facebook is certainly at the forefront of this. According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer report, US people saw a drop in their trust on digital platforms (social media, news apps, search engines) from 2017 to 2018.
In 2018 only 42% seem to trust digital platforms, despite using them on a daily basis.
This can also affect the trust in brands and the way ads are displayed, which brings another challenge for marketers when setting up their strategy.
The rise of Instagram
Facebook users may not spend as much time on the platform lately, but they probably don’t go that far for Facebook, as Instagram tends to be on the rise.
It currently counts more than 800 million monthly active users and there are more than 25 million businesses focusing on visual content.
Instagram’s key to success is the idea of adding Stories to their app. There are now more than 300 million daily active Stories users, an engagement that is not expected to reduce any time soon.
Moreover, Instagram’s business features that provide access to analytics and useful insights make it easier for brands to track their success.
Both images and videos can be very powerful and there’s a new format trending with the rise of Instagram Stories. It brings out a new challenge of creating appealing content that grabs your attention in just a few seconds, but this also highlights a change that marketers have to follow.
Both B2B and B2C brands are exploring the benefits of Instagram, from brand awareness to engagement and even conversions.
As with WhatsApp and Messenger, Facebook is probably happy that the users don’t abandon the company completely, even if they don’t use their main platform as much as they did in the past.
Facebook is not over yet, but there’s definitely a growing concern over its future. Marketers are paying close attention to the latest news to make sure their strategies are still effective.
Facebook’s secret weapons are probably the acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram, as these two social platforms can maintain the domination over their competitors.
Social media communication and media consumption are changing and both the platforms but also the marketers are already adapting to this.
The most important changes that we already see are:
- The rise of video content
- The growth of live streaming
- The increased interest in private messaging
- The focus on communities and Groups
- The growing privacy concerns
- The changing habits as mobile consumption grow even more
- The questions around regulation and whether social media can turn into the ‘enemy’ for the public opinion
- The challenge of making the most of social ads while maintaining your consumers’ trust with your targeting behavior
These are only a few of the directions that social media is heading and they can give us an idea of all the questions they need to answer.
Marketers are aware of all these challenges and they try to keep up with the latest trends to ensure that their strategy will still be effective over the next years.
The best way to measure the success of your campaign through these changes is to:
- Be consistent with your metrics
- Explore how your audience reacts to your campaigns
- Optimise your ads to add value without being intrusive
- Experiment with different content types and different platforms (if Facebook is not working anymore for you, what’s the best channel to reach your audience?)
- Focus on the power of attribution to make your strategy more successful
- Involve a multi-channel approach to your digital strategy to avoid being tied up to one platform or one medium