Is Facebook Failing Marketers? Or Are Marketers The Real Problem?

A few weeks ago, Forrester VP and Principal Analyst Nate Elliott made some waves when he authored an open letter to Facebook Founder/CEO/wundkerkind Mark Zuckerberg, boldly claiming that the world’s largest social network was “failing marketers.”

The letter didn’t mince words, and didn’t waste any time or space, opening with a sudden salvo aimed directly at Zuckerberg’s Facebook:

Mr. Zuckerberg:

Facebook is failing marketers.


In further building his case to back up his booming opening volley, Elliott cited a recent Forrester survey of close to 400 marketers and eBusiness executives at large companies in the United States, U.K. and Canada, and stated flatly:

“These executives told us that Facebook creates less business value than any other digital marketing opportunity.”

Elliott then made the specific claims that Facebook “fails marketers” primarily because it does not do enough to “drive genuine engagement between companies and their customers,” and secondarily, because Facebook “isn’t good enough at the pure advertising business onto which you’ve shifted your focus,” i.e. Facebook display ads that “were significantly less effective than the display ads they buy elsewhere online.”

Predictably, the letter generated a lot of media coverage and probably even more conversation, with many an online marketer likely rushing to congratulate Elliott for publicly stating what he or she often complains about too – usually in a less public manner or forum.

Well, count us out when it comes to this subset of digital marketers and advertisers. You see, we don’t believe that “Facebook is failing marketers.”

Not at all.

In fact, we firmly believe that if marketers or brands feel fit to attack Facebook for any real or perceived failings, their best initial course of action should be to take a long look in the mirror.

We touched on this in a recent interview with Inside Facebook, who, perhaps influenced by Elliott’s open letter and marketer survey, asked Amplitude Digital Partner  Jeff Ferguson:

What can Facebook do more of, in order to make it a better advertising option?

Jeff’s answer was short, simple, direct and to the point. And it didn’t exactly jibe with Elliott’s opinion.

“We’re actually very happy with the way Facebook works as an advertising option. Usually when I hear agencies complaining about Facebook, they’re just using it for the wrong reasons.”

You see, when you – as a marketer, brand or business – are simply using Facebook to get attention, likes or some other social media so-called metric (many of which are really just diagnostic metrics), you’re missing the mark and the point of Facebook. Or any marketing tool, for that matter.

The true goal of marketing and advertising is always about driving your corporate Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs (such as leads and sales and revenue). Period.

After all, who cares if a bunch of people like your company’s Facebook page…while you slowly go out of business?

And when it comes to “driving genuine engagement between companies and their customers”…well, that’s why a company hires YOU and pays YOU. Usually quite well, too. If this was, say, 1945, you wouldn’t fire off a telegram to the radio network blaming them when the radio ad you wrote on behalf of your client failed to resonate with listeners and move product off shelves, would you?

Well, maybe you would. No matter the era, message or medium, there will always be those in our ranks who lack accountability and responsibility, sadly. But, thankfully, there will also always be a good number of us who do take pride in creating compelling and effective advertising and marketing messages – and look to do a better and smarter job when things don’t work out the way we all hoped.

We surely aren’t the only ones to hold this opinion. We’re not even the only ones to publicly voice this line of thinking, either.

In MediaPost’s Online Spin blog a few weeks ago, Joseph Jaffe, the CEO and Founder of “innovation agency” Evol8tion, penned a post saying as much, even going so far as to write:

“I’m going to cut Facebook some slack here and put the blame squarely on marketers, who have performed a lazy and desperate Hail Mary by dumping most of their eggs (digital or analog) into the basket of Facebook…For the most part, marketers have been unimaginative, uninspiring, lazy, predictable, traditional, boring and one-dimensional when it comes to their Facebook presence. Where is all the inventiveness, innovation, creativity or originality?”

And a day or two later, Forbes contributor Doug Schoen offered an even more definitive defense of Facebook, penning a post entitled, “Forrester Gets It Wrong On Facebook (Really Wrong).” Schoen makes several wise points in his post, including taking Forrester and Elliott to task for making a “definitive and absolute judgment…based on a relatively small sample, and based on relatively small differences.”

In his final analysis, Schoen called into question Elliott’s own failings as a marketing student and practitioner, and declared the Forrester survey he so eagerly cites to be of little real value.

“Thus, I think that the entire Forrester survey is of no great utility and benefit, and is certainly not one that should allow anyone to make any significant or substantial judgment about the value of the Facebook brand.”

We are in agreement with Schoen’s final analysis. And just like we expressed our opinion before that metrics matter, and it’s important to check yourself before you blame anyone and everyone else under the sun, the same goes for Facebook – and any other social media platform. Or any traditional media platform, for that matter.

Learn more about how to use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter the right way, today, with our helpful ebooks on social media in general and Twitter in particular. And drop us a line if you’d like to receive a more customized approach to your online marketing goals and needs.

We promise not to fail you. In any medium.