Digital + Social Media

Should B2B Brands Quit Facebook?

By Kari Hernandez


Traci Mazurek Zoom Portrait

An interview with INK Senior Supervisor and Lead of our Digital & Social team, Traci Mazurek.

Kari:

Over the past few months, the news about Facebook has been a lot to take in: the whistleblower testimony on the tech giant’s harmful impact, a major, hours-long outage that disrupted businesses and billions of users, and the new Meta parent brand to top it off. However, does any of this actually have an impact on INK’s recommendations around day-to-day digital marketing for B2B brands?

Traci:

It does, and it doesn’t.

The fallout is minor since we’re less reliant on Facebook than we were in past years, especially in the B2B sphere. And it’s now less common for B2B brands to stick to one social channel, particularly just Facebook. We’ve found LinkedIn to be highly effective for digital marketing, despite the platform’s higher advertising cost per metric than Facebook. Twitter can also drive solid traffic for clients when strategic audience targeting is implemented. Other platforms like Google Ads are performing well too, especially when executed on an always-on vs. campaign basis.

However, it does impact all digital marketers on some level. There is no denying that Facebook is still a major player and remains beneficial for some businesses. Certain audiences, like older, conservative-leaning users, have a stronghold there compared to other social platforms that attract younger, more progressive audiences. Additionally, Google and Bing crawl public Facebook posts, so if you’re consistently leveraging strategic keywords in your company page copy, you could see a lift in SEO from that as well.

Kari:

Is it time to quit Facebook?

Traci:

Not yet. Look, we all know Facebook generally sucks – the platform and the company have their issues — but it’s still an effective marketing channel. Even though people have been leaving the platform in droves for the past few years, there are still billions that check in and engage with it multiple times a day. Facebook Groups remain popular across demographics, with many users reportedly staying on the platform primarily for these communities. Thus, I don’t recommend quitting Facebook yet, but being that said, it is time to ask the question of why you and your brand are there – and you should only continue putting time and resources into the platform if your answer is: to reach a key audience that is also there.

I think the overarching takeaway from all of this is the need for a diverse digital strategy. Put simply, don’t put all your eggs in one Zuckerbasket.

Kari:

What does a diverse digital strategy look like today for your clients?

Traci:

As a digital team, we’ve aligned on moving from a campaign approach to a more, “always-on plus campaign” approach. At a baseline, that looks like always-on search ads. It doesn’t have to entail a crazy amount of spend but it ensures you’re running ads to reach your audiences who are already proactively searching for you, your services, and/or your competitors. Then we layer on tentpole campaigns that look like throughout the year while allocating spend on various channels. This might look like incorporating campaign messaging into your always-on search ads but then also running Twitter and LinkedIn ads in tandem.

This could also include Facebook ads but when we’re reaching people in their professional lives, we’re typically not using Facebook, we’re using LinkedIn and Twitter. With these platforms, we can target users that are part of different professional organizations and/or following niche trade media so we can proactively ensure people care about a topic from a professional standpoint while filtering out irrelevant consumer audiences.

Kari:

What about B2B companies using social to reach talent? What channels prevail for that?

Traci:

That’s a place we would include Facebook and Instagram in our strategy. We would also lean heavily on LinkedIn, and probably less for Twitter. However, we do see success with Twitter ads if the brand is already posting a good deal of employer brand/corporate content organically on Twitter.

It’s important to remember that talent acquisition is a blend of personal and professional. For instance, we have a client currently hiring for a variety of positions so we’re recommending they use a combination of Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Every situation and subsequent recommendation is different. So again, it just depends on who the client is trying to reach.

Kari:

Are you seeing companies consider Facebook as a material risk to their business? Or as part of crisis and issues management?

Traci:

Yes and no. Companies that have strong progressive values have been vocal about ending their ad campaigns on the platform due to Facebook’s ongoing issues with misinformation and hate speech; Patagonia is a notable example. Nonprofits and other businesses can run into tricky situations here as well, as Facebook’s new filters, designed to weed out discriminatory practices in advertising, frequently and erroneously flag these organizations as dangerous.

Kari:

Fill in the blank. “If I were X, I would/would not be on Facebook.”

Traci:

If I were a nonprofit and/or a progressive, values-led business, I would not be on Facebook.

If I were a large, primarily consumer-focused corporation and/or trying to reach older, more conservative users and their personal interests, I would be on Facebook.

Kari:

How do you think brands should be thinking about the risk associated with Facebook moving forward?

Traci:

Let’s say you’re an edtech company running ads about the benefits of leveraging student data to create curriculum that’s more beneficial for students and their families; do you want to run ads for your company on a channel that’s known for misusing data? It feels directly oppositional to the company’s business purpose and values and therefore, running Facebook ads could result in more negative sentiment. If your audience is there but your values don’t align, you must ask yourself if the reward outweighs the risk. For some brands, it does.

We can also look at the past to predict the future. Facebook’s power has decreased significantly over the years, and I see that continuing. It used to be the social channel. If you were a brand, Facebook was the default “must-have” social channel, while the others could be considered secondary. But in recent years, Facebook removed nearly all the third-party behavioral data targeting parameters, limiting the targeting capabilities and affecting both B2C and B2B industries. This was partially due to the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018. After this, we started seeing a decline in the success of lead gen ads, both through Facebook and also other platforms, as consumers became even more distrusting of social platforms and less likely to proactively provide their personal data. We continue to see this today, with Meta announcing that they were removing “sensitive” ad targeting parameters linked to race and politics. While this will hopefully limit harmful entities from advertising to these groups, this also affects organizations that can benefit these users, like civil rights and LGBTQ+ resources.  

Kari:

Are brands taking a moral stand against Facebook, and if so, because of common ownership, does that extend to Instagram and other Meta platforms?

Traci:

It did for the brands who were vocal about pausing Facebook ad spend in 2020; however, many of these companies restarted their ad spend on both platforms.

It’s a bit of a tricky situation for B2C and D2C brands, from small to large, who are reliant in part or in full on the leads and revenue driven by Facebook and Instagram ads. These brands are in a sticky spot given the extended outage, ongoing scandals, and the effects of those scandals on Facebook and other platforms under the Meta umbrella. This is where B2B has an advantage; we run Facebook and Instagram ads on those platforms when the need calls for it, but consumer brands are trying to hit people more frequently and are more dependent on it to drive business.

Kari:

Do Facebook’s woes open opportunities for other social channels?

Traci:

Absolutely. The other channels are capitalizing on Facebook’s many scandals – a prime example is Twitter’s “hello literally everyone” tweet during the recent Meta outage – but this also demonstrates how the platforms are cannibalizing each other. For example, when Clubhouse debuted as an invite-only, audio-only space, the other channels ramped up or started to deploy audio, like Twitter Spaces and Facebook Messenger Rooms. It may feel annoying, like the platforms are morphing into one mega-platform, but it benefits these platforms to have many of the same features so that users and brands are familiar and comfortable with multiple options if Facebook goes down (again) or if other channels die off.

Ultimately, even though digital marketing professionals joke about brand social media and brand Twitter, I love when the brands get on Twitter to make noise when something happens on Facebook. For lack of a better word, it’s very meta.

Kari:

Any closing thoughts?

Traci:

TL;DR: Have a diverse digital marketing strategy, don’t rely on just one platform. Get to know the other platforms you’re less familiar with. I don’t mean you have to start posting dances on TikTok (unless that’s your thing), but set up an account and start exploring, see what kind of videos pop up in your feed and how users respond. Pop over to Reddit and check out subreddits related to your company’s industry or a personal interest, shout-out r/MakeupAddiction. Not only does this help us become more well-rounded marketers, it’s also just fun.