Facebook is now working very hard to build deeper relationships with publishers, especially after making updates to its News Feed algorithm to feature high-quality timely content. Facebook's offering publishers a more optimal user experience, built for mobile with faster loading times, if they start publishing content that lives within Facebook's mobile app and is then hosted on Facebook's servers. Publishers would then be able to serve ads sold by Facebook with shared revenue. Instead of driving to their websites, they'd create content to keep users on Facebook.
That is quite the offer. Facebook has become the preeminent news source for millions of people. It brings 1.3 billion users to brands, publishers, celebrities and anyone else who wants to get a message out there. This paired with Facebook users' strong mobile usage and Facebook's mastery of user experience clearly make it an attractive platform for investing time, energy and, of course, dollars.
All of this raises questions for advertisers as well as publishers when they look at the role of any platform they use to reach their audiences be it Facebook, Twitter, a microsite, a blog or anything else. Who owns the relationship? What is the end game? Who ultimately has control of the data?
Giving Away Power
Power is more easily given than taken back, and Facebook has proven itself to be an incredible platform for referral traffic and consumer engagement. When publishers and advertisers give more power and control to any service from Facebook to Google, it's unlikely the power shift will ever change or return, but the rules almost certainly will as Facebook is constantly making updates to improve user experience. And it has no problem cutting off partners. Remember Zynga?
The goal for any brand should be to be as close to its users and customers as possible. Giving more power to an intermediary puts up yet another barrier and creates the opportunity for more to be put in place over time.
Remove the Barriers
As marketers, we can easily get focused on achieving short-term wins, and social platforms offer just that. They have the users, often the technology and the means to tap into an audience. But they can (and almost certainly will) also create barriers between brands and the people they want to reach by owning the data, the platform and the rules for reaching people.
Marketers are constantly challenged with making tradeoffs. We have to be present on platforms where people are. After all, that's really the point of advertising, but tradeoffs should be carefully calculated.
At the end of the day, however, every interaction should have the potential to bring each consumer closer to the brand. On social platforms, that means driving people to your website, encouraging database signups and bringing people into your owned platforms. Sometimes that involves making tradeoffs, such as deals, exclusive content and exceptional experiences. Many, including BuzzFeed, CNN and NowThis create exclusive content for social platforms, but that content is ultimately intended to build relationships with new users. Whether or not that pays off remains to be seen.
We will always need to be where the audience is, but that doesn't mean we should just accept that and not make efforts to at least get them to be somewhere else as well. That seems to be what Facebook is now offering publishers. Facebook and Twitter offer seamless experiences that deliver value to their users and always work on any device in any place. That's something marketers should emulate. Otherwise, we'll always be chasing users on platforms where more barriers can be placed in front of our messages.