The advent of Facebook is arguably an invention that changed the world as we know it. Indeed, Facebook has linked people to each other, to advertisers and to brands in a way that is as ingenious as it is effective. Of course, it is inevitable that a tool as powerful as Facebook will generate its fair share of rumours. Daryl Bartkunsky, MD of Student Brands helps to sift the facts from the fiction, and discusses the ways in which Facebook can benefit advertisers.
"There are a number of common rumours that tend to surface and resurface around Facebook," Bartkunsky points out. "The most common one is that Facebook is set to close its doors - most recently this is marked to take place on 15 January 2013, but the date changes every year. The other is of course that Facebook will soon start charging for access to the network," he says, adding that this is one rumour that will simply never take place. "Apart from the fact that Facebook itself has denied the rumours, charging for access is not how social media works - Facebook would not be Facebook if it did."
There have, however been a number of recent changes to Facebook. Perhaps the biggest change seen in 2012 was the implementation of the timeline. "Essentially the timeline is a way for Facebook to ensure longevity of usage," Bartkunsky believes. "While it seemed that the timeline was initially an unwelcome change, it has now been accepted by users and advertisers and allows them to create something of an online scrapbook, showcasing a history wall of everything they have done. The best example I can think of here is the timeline created by Coca Cola. It features photos, stories and brand activities that have taken place every year since 1800. It's no surprise then that Coca Cola has 55 million followers."
Privacy is always a hot topic on Facebook and how personal information is shared and what is ultimately done with it is always a concern. Ultimately, for Bartkunsky, if a company is advertising on Facebook, it needs to be certain that it has nothing to hide.
So how does one become Facebook "savvy" and learn to spot the rumours? "If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is," says Bartkunsky. "Likewise, if something one hears about Facebook sounds ridiculous or unlikely, it is probably just that."
The recent introduction of "promoted posts" allows users to promote a certain status, update or picture. It uses the Facebook algorithm, EdgeRank, as its point of departure. EdgeRank controls the stories you see on your newsfeed," Bartkunsky explains. "It ranks content against four different criteria, ultimately hiding the content that is ranked as boring and allowing the interesting content to be visible. Promoted posts allow posts to be seen by a proportional number of users, depending on how much money an advertiser has invested in promoting that post. For example, a company spending R5 per post will have their content viewed by 500 people.
"Promoted posts grant advertisers a high interaction rate, however, one is not able to target the audience as one would with an advert - so there is no guarantee that your content is being viewed by the right people at the right time," cautions Bartkunsky. "I also worry that promoted posts will change the essence of Facebook from one where the most valued and popular content gets the most views to one where the larger companies who have the most money to spend, dominate the newsfeed."
Ultimately, the stats speak for themselves. Figures provided by Hubspot state that 42 percent of marketers see Facebook as critical to their business. Companies that use Facebook effectively have shown an increase in their business by 75 percent over the past six months. A staggering 91 percent of internet users in South Africa make use of Facebook, and research has shown that consumers trust peer recommendation over advertising. Indeed, this may be why 62 percent of marketers today have made social media a strategic priority.