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New Facebook Pages Shake Up Social Ad Ecosystem

Social ad vendors, agencies need to make tactical adjustments, experts say
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Yesterday Facebook completed what it sees is a major transition—from an advertising platform to a marketing platform. "We are evolving from ads to stories," Facebook's director of global business marketing Mike Hoefflinger told the roughly 900 marketers in attendance at Wednesday's fMC event in New York.

Ignoring the fact that advertising as storytelling is nowhere near a novel idea—David Ogilvy popularized “story appeal” with “The Man in the Hathaway Shirt” print ad in 1951—the concept coming to Facebook means a shake-up for brands, and particularly for the companies that make their living handling Facebook brand presences.

Attached to the rollout of Facebook Timeline brand pages, the company also showed off new ad units and tools designed to transition brands from focusing on fan acquisition to attracting new fans by better engaging with the existing ones. For example, the Reach Generator product lets brands amplify content posted to pages. Considering that only 16 percent of fans see a brand’s post on average, that Facebook guarantees the tool will spread a post to 75 percent of a brand’s fans over the course of a month is a big deal.

Problem is, most marketers may not realize that such a reach gap exists, said Ian Schafer, CEO and founder of digital agency Deep Focus. Many brands likely believe that their Facebook messages reach all of their Facebook fans, which is clearly not the case.

Rather than focus primarily on engagement rates, "people are worried about reaching quarterly or annual 'like' goals," Schafer said. Facebook's push toward more content-oriented ads "might be the nail in the coffin with Facebook saying [acquiring fans is] not the most important thing."

Facebook’s engagement-centric approach “turns advertising on its head,” said Victoria Ransom, founder and CEO of social marketing company Wildfire. She added, “Brands have to engage [consumers] so that they produce content so that content can turn into a Sponsored Story.”

But for brands to succeed with a storytelling strategy "requires a completely new approach to content creation and media that is specific to Facebook and not likely to fit in an existing internal department or external agency very neatly," said Jamie Tedford, CEO of social marketing firm Brand Networks, in an email.

How does this impact the cottage industry of companies built entirely to service Facebook advertising? It's likely that marketers left Facebook's event mulling whether they need to trim the number of companies they work with to manage their Facebook presence, added Schafer. As a result, he said he expects that a number of Facebook vendors will quickly integrate their platforms. In fact, two days before Facebook's event, Wildfire and fellow social marketing company Adaptly did just that. The companies announced an melding of Adaptly's social advertising and optimization technology with Wildfire's social media management platform.

But even within single organizations, there is a restructuring occurring. Tedford said Brand Networks has combined its community manager and media planner roles into a position titled Story Planners, a position whose duties run the gamut from creating posts, monitoring analytics and amplifying posts via Sponsored Stories. 

Not to be overlooked, however, is the rejiggering required to migrate to the new layout before pages are automatically upgraded on March 30. In addition to page design overhauls, brands will need to prioritize and perhaps consolidate the tabs their pages feature since the new layout removes the left sidebar and reduces the number of tabs passively displayed, said Sav Banerjee, executive strategy director at digital agency Rokkan, in an email.

“The transition burden will fall most heavily on creative and user experience professionals,” he said.