2018 has not been kind to Facebook.
Since starting this social blog, I’ve tried to give a perspective of a constantly shifting social media landscape that makes working in this space so exciting. One thing I’ve hinted at each time is that Facebook has been scrambling to fend off competitors and stay on top as one of the most-used/enjoyable social media channels. Things recently went from bad to worse, and now’s a good time to figure out what it means for content marketers.
The advertising landscape could be in jeopardy.
We all know Facebook’s advertising is extremely effective because of its hyper-targeting capabilities. For an example, we can deliver a post about a chance to win free tickets to the U.S. Open in Shinnecock Hills to 18-45-year-old men within a 50 mile radius of the golf course who are fans of Phil Mickelson with an interest in “Men's major golf championships” with a relatively high certainty that they will click and convert.
The problem now is that a wide swath of users are starting to feel uneasy about all the apps they’ve logged into over the years using their Facebook credentials. The Cambridge Analytica scandal was a massive breach of trust for these users. Mark Zuckerberg addressing the situation publicly in nearly every press publication on top of agreeing to appear before a congressional hearing should be a massive warning sign to marketers that major changes are imminent.
Facebook has already begun dismantling advertising targeting called Partner Categories. This third-party targeting system uses valuable external information (like purchasing activity) from data aggregator companies to inform targeting on Facebook. It’s important to note that this is not what allowed Cambridge Analytica to access data of 50 million Facebook profiles. However, offering precisely targeted ads is the heart of Facebook’s business model, and this move is one of many more likely to come.
For marketers, it’s still business as usual, but we should start investing in new content marketing techniques. Until Facebook is officially regulated by the government (which I would bet money is where this will go), marketers still have time to prepare. Keep running ads on Facebook, but now’s the time to start getting familiar with other opportunities elsewhere. (And also focus more of your efforts on content. Particularly the vertical type.) If you’re not yet, I recommend all advertising agencies and companies start investing time and money producing video content in the vertical format. Mastering this style of content now will put you in a great spot in the future.
Why? Because Snapchat and Instagram Stories are growing in popularity with younger audiences, and Google will be adding vertical content to search results soon. Additional proof that vertical content is the future can be found by downloading the trivia app HQ to get a sense of how this format will (if it isn’t already) be the primary way we consume content.
Snapchat is also giving away free advertising to companies and brands already promoting vertical content on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. It can't be said enough that now’s the time to master this format now because not only is it popular with kids today, but it probably won't change when this audience gets older, and it won’t change for the next generation of youngsters.
The power of vertical content is so predictable because video content has evolved to be the most user-friendly way to attract attention online, mobile traffic is exploding, and it’s comfortable to hold the phone vertically when scrolling or tapping through Instagram or Snapchat Stories. No matter what social channel is your primary driver of digital advertising, investing the time and energy into producing and mastering content that audiences love will ensure your agency or company's social and digital presence will prevail.
Facebook’s data sharing and targeting capabilities will be under the microscope for years to come, but advertising dollars will always be pumped into channels where audiences enjoy spending their time. The phrase “content is king” has never been more relevant.