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Spend Time on Facebook, Money on Mobile

January 17, 2014 - Advertising, Mobile, VMBC - , , ,

I came across an older research piece this week detailing how smartphone users in the U.S. are now spending more time engaged with mobile apps than they do with desktop and mobile web browsing combined and it got me thinking about where we are now on the social v. mobile debate.

When you dig a little deeper into the research, you see that almost half that time on apps was spent playing games, and that 43% was spent on social networking (basically twice the time a web browser is pointed to Facebook). So, while this study alone cannot be read as the death knell for web-based engagement, taken together with Gartner’s estimate that ad sales on the mobile platform will double this year, to $3.3B, and Forrester’s projection that M-Commerce will experience a compound growth rate of almost 40% a year over the next five years, you see a fundamental shift in behavior and a world moving inexorably toward a place where mobile is a brand’s primary marketing platform.

Then there was the news this week that Taco Bell offered free tacos to all 6 million of their Facebook friends and only 3% responded. And the report that a number of early Facebook employees are quitting specifically so they can cash out their otherwise-restricted options now, for fear of another bubble.

Now, given that we at VMBC spend our days turning our clients’ mobile cost centers into profit centers, we’re a little biased. Nevertheless, it all still makes me wonder how anyone continues to invest hard dollars into social media marketing versus spending to direct and immediate sales on the mobile platform. Don’t get me wrong, what Facebook is, and does, is literally awesome.

But what Facebook does not do is deliver a reliable ROI for advertisers.

There are several key reasons for this, as we see it:

  1. Liking you is not the same thing as caring about you.
Facebook has set the bar for customer “belonging” so low that it’s impossible to tell who really cares about you and who just clicked a box. It may be that of the 6 million people who Like Taco Bell, only 180,000 are genuine brand evangelists, and so the brand did a great job reaching them. Or it may be that you can’t expect a Facebook follower to jump through any sort of hoop (like printing a coupon and actually going into your store) for you.
  2. I am not on Facebook to buy stuff.
There are a lot of reasons I go to Facebook.  None of them have anything to do with retail transactions.  And the fact that my friends like Starbucks, Coke, Oreos or Skittles (the four biggest brands on Facebook) does not mean that I will buy more of these brands; it just means they ran a more effective campaign to get my friends to click a button.  To be more specific: I am not on Facebook to be sold to.  Please stop trying.
  3. You can’t replicate mobile anywhere but on mobile.
Mobile is a platform: always on, always present, knows where you are and where you want to go.  Behavior is instantly trackable, and easily assigned to an investment.  Facebook is an activity. One that makes perfect sense for mobile, by the way; we were happy to see that they are finally going to launch an iPad app.  But it’s an activity that is at least a couple steps removed from the process of selling and buying.

All of which is why we continue to tell our clients: you can spend your time on Facebook, but spend your money on mobile.

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