In the social marketing space, if you want to be successful, you have to become one of Facebook’s Preferred Developers. Without this corporate badge of honor, your company won’t have access to various Facebook insider perks, like tips on new features and API changes, and direct access to Facebook employees and training.
The PDC program has always been viewed as an olive branch extended to big companies–it’s essentially Facebook’s way of saying they value brands on the platform, so much so that they provide a list of “preferred” companies that can help optimize your brand’s Facebook presence.
But with the advent of Facebook’s new layout, Timeline, the company’s devotion to brands has grown increasingly murkier and rendered some of the most traditional offerings of social marketing companies–like scheduling posts and developing custom landing tabs–far less necessary.
Earlier this month, ReadWriteWeb noted that brands that had switched to the timeline layout saw a decrease in engagement–but only, interestingly, if they scheduled their posts. Posts that were published manually did not see a loss of engagement.
This would seem an affront by Facebook to social marketing companies, who proudly advertise the ability to schedule posts as an important aspect of their tools. (As a previous employee of a social marketing company that was a competitor to Buddy Media’s, this reporter knows this firsthand.)
Robyn Tippins, ReadWriteWeb’s community manager, weighed in in the comments. “I have no idea what Facebook is doing, but they are driving me crazy,” she wrote. “ It almost seems like they want us to tear our hair out over trying to do it ourselves and then give up and pay Facebook for advertising… ;).”
It seems like that’s exactly what Facebook is trying to do. Another commenter clarified. “Either you pay or you get less impressions. It was very clear from the FMC [Facebook Marketing Conference] event that this is how they are going to play it moving forward. Gotta love it, the new Facebook advertising is basically mob protection.”
Joe Ciarallo, Buddy Media’s VP of communications, didn’t agree that the conference attempted to sway companies to use advertising instead of brand pages.
“When Facebook has FMC, and Sheryl Sandberg says ‘Your page is your mission control center, everything starts from the page,’ it’s clear that you have to focus on content, and that’s what we’ve been preaching forever,” he told Betabeat via phone. “That was the biggest message that I got: that you have to start thinking about the content that’s going to get my fans and friends of fans sharing, and of course I can amplify that via premium ads.”
Buddy Media acquired Brighter Option back in February, an acquisition that allowed them to add paid advertising solutions to their social marketing offerings. And before being acquired by Adobe, this reporter’s former company was acquired by Efficient Frontier, a company that also offers multi-channel advertising technology.
Another post on ReadWriteWeb echoes Facebook’s preference for ads over pages: in an amendment added to Facebook’s IPO prospectus, “Facebook said ‘decisions by advertisers to use our free products, such as Facebook Pages, instead of advertising on Facebook’ would negatively impact its ad revenue growth.”
Though many social marketing companies offer ads in addition to brand page solutions, the historical focus has always been on creating good content for brand pages, and letting the ads follow. This amendment makes it clear that, at least from a business perspective, Facebook would prefer brands to opt for Facebook Premium Ads rather than free brand pages.
Perhaps because of Facebook’s recent focus on ads, many social marketing companies are looking to diversify venues. At the beginning of April, Buddy Media announced a new YouTube channel sponsorship ad model. YouTube’s increasing popularity and hospitality to marketers has recently drummed up interest in advertising on the site (thismoment and WildFire also both offer YouTube solutions).
Mr. Ciarallo insists that Buddy has always focused on offering cross-platform solutions. “We started as a [Facebook] PDC,” he said. “We had partnerships with LinkedIn, then we integrated Twitter, we had the ad buying. This market moves fast so you have to keep evolving to really set the pace. For us it’s just setting the pace for what we need to do.”
But there’s no doubt that social marketing companies have been scrambling to snap up advertising options, as most companies are built on the idea of ‘customizing’ and ‘optimizing’ your brand page, and until recently did little in terms of running ads.
“I think that’s what Facebook is focused on,” said Mr. Ciarallo. “This sort of convergence–stop thinking about your ad team and your community management team writing wall post copy. Ideally, you want that wall post copy to be amplified via sponsored or via premium products.”
It seems even the social marketing companies have already begun to internalize Facebook’s new line of thinking. Facebook’s message to social marketers? Figure out a way to offer advertising solutions to complement your brand page content, or find a different platform. Hey, we’re sure Google+ is dying for marketing partners (Buddy Media is already one of them).