Dear Facebook, I Think You Forgot Your “A” Game…

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To be clear, I’m a big fan of Facebook, both personally and professionally. As a 20-something I’m addicted to keeping track of friends and secretly stalking new people I meet.

As a search marketer, I’m a strong supporter of (relevant) business participation as an effective tool for brand awareness and customer engagement. With that said, I’m more than a little disappointed in Facebook’s lack of basic functionality and advertiser tools.

While Facebook offers a ton of great features (demographic targeting, RSS integration, custom tabs, etc) their lack of attention to detail has left the stale taste of missed opportunity in my mouth. Why? Let me explain.

Limited Reporting: I would really love to see more comprehensive options with regards to reporting.

  • Reports w/custom date ranges – options are quite limited here.
  • Data Mining – considering the gold mine they’re sitting on, this can be improved significantly. For example, I can get a breakdown of age ranges or geographic region for my ad. In other words, I can see the overall percent of 18-24 year olds or people in California that clicked on my ad, but I can’t see how many 18-24 year olds in California clicked on my ad.
  • Conversion Tracking – come on people this is not 1998 and we’re in an economic downturn. Advertisers need to be able to measure ROI. Or has this feature been excluded on purpose…?

Ads Manager: unimpressive, to say the least. A more user friendly and accessible UI would be especially helpful for management purposes, and a desktop editor would be even better.

  • Access – as it currently stands, multiple administrators cannot access the Ad Manager. The one that sets this up is the only one that can view the reports and manage ads. This is especially frustrating if multiple people need access, or if a 3rd party takes on ad management.
  • Inability to Edit Existing Ads – what if I just need to make one tiny change? Facebook gives me the option to edit the ad but a new ad is created to reflect the change. So then you have both the old and new running, must pause the old, and remember to aggregate those performance stats. Unnecessary.

Fan Page Updates: this feature is great in theory. The ability to blast all fans with relevant or important information is very useful. However, the only way that fans know about the updates is if they navigate to the updates tab located inside their inbox. Probably not.

Alerts: for those managing multiple Facebook pages, or for those that are just plain busy and don’t have time to log in and review activity every day, it would be super handy to be able to receive email alerts for whenever someone has engaged in your page in some way. This issue may be resolved however, with the release of the new Open Stream API so stay tuned on this front.

As a search marketer, these shortcomings make my job harder. And not for selfish reasons – not being able to effectively illustrate and analyze performance, having to charge clients more for the additional management time required to deal with the clunky interface, and missed opportunities for fan outreach are not in favor of big brands and small business owners alike.

Has Facebook’s success gone to its proverbial head? I’m assuming that the lack of competition is allowing them to take their sweet time in dealing with these glaring issues. I would argue however, that it’s in their best interest to hurry up and create a platform that allows for advertisers to spend more time engaging with their fan base, and less time scratching their heads.

Rachel Andersen works for the Portland based SEM agency Anvil Media, Inc. She has expertise in all aspects of search engine marketing and specializes in SEO for large sites. Andersen has been responsible for the development and execution of dozens of search and social marketing campaigns over her time spent with Anvil.

Rachel Freeman

Rachel Freeman

Rachel Freeman works for the Jive Software, the pioneer and leading provider of social business solutions. She has expertise in all aspects of search engine... Read Full Bio
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  • I totally agree with those statements.

    However, I also think that it will be probably part of arriving premium options that Facebook may develop for marketers in order to improve their income through other channels than only advertisment (doesn’t really work…)

    As for fan page, I personally think that being able to target fans based on their country is a cool option but useless if you have customers all over the world.

    It would be much more interesting to target them based on the language of their facebook interface, as many advertisers are already doing with browser language, IP….

    Really good point of view by the way!



  • gloria wheeler

    Great job Rachel–

  • The fact that there is no conversion tracking is a bit ridiculous. Tracking ROI is a basic aspect of online marketing.

  • You forgot

    a.) Absolutely zero customer service or tech support, even for companies who are interested in paid services, until you send enough angry messages and phone calls, after which you get a LITTLE customer support.

    b.) Basically no peer-to-peer support. (Compare to MySpace, with great peer-to-peer support for personal accounts and responsive corporate support for businesses.)

  • tambre

    I totally agree with your points Rachel. I implemented a lot of campaigns in the past and ran across all these issues.

    Luckily, I was able to talk with someone in support through email and phone.

    I expressed my concerns that are basically what you wrote about at different points and, according to the facebook representatives, these are things that they will be possibly working on/thinking about implementing in the future.

  • I’m going to have to disagree with you a bit. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been against everything that facebook has done in the past several years since they first opened their doors to the “public” so to speak. If you want to be friends with your mom, and be a fan of “watching the sunrise” then go on over to myspace and have your fun.

    I understand where you’re coming from, and I guess from your standpoint, and at facebook’s current place, it would be nice to have the things you suggested. But I’m not comfortable with the goofy ads (99% of which are digging through MY profile information to generate phony phishy ads about my supposed likes and dislikes)

    I’ve just grown tired of all these social networking sites just trying to 1up each other. Facebook used to be something different and unique for college students and alums, and for them, and now it’s gone and gotten more facelifts than Joan Rivers, and is just trying to figure ways to integrate the success of other companies into its model

    Perhaps I wouldn’t be so grumpy about the changes if things like applications and fan pages faced a CONSIDERABLE amount more scrutiny and administrative approval before being replaced. I’m tired of my “suggestions” page being filled with nonsensical fanpages of phrases, inanimate objects, and fake celebrity homesites. Hell, even most of the legitimate ones are just run by publicists, where’s the person-to-person connection when someone else is ghost writing the page?

    Want to find a cool application for your page? Good luck sifting through the 75% of things that will spam you, take and sell your personal information and more. No, I think Facebook forgot it’s “A” game years and years ago. Perhaps you should be referring to their “C” game.

  • Agreed…. Facebook, please step it up already. I could use your help here.

  • Thanks for all the thoughtful comments folks.

    Nick – I agree. I get very frustrated with some of the sketchy ads and app updates. There certainly needs to be stricter regulation surrounding applications, fan pages and ad messaging in relation to actual landing pages.

    And that the vibe has kind of been killed for what started out as something very niche and relevant for college kids. But I still have hope as they have an opportunity here to class up their ad serving platform with greater relevancy so they won’t turn into the wasteland that MySpace has become.

  • @tambre: I’ve had positive experiences with our rep, and like you, generally get the same response that they are working on the issues but in the meantime “it is what it is” kind of thing

  • Rachel,

    Great post.

    I agree Facebook Ads Manager is a joke. It’s like doing PPC Management in the GoTo days before Overture, LOL.

    There is sooo much room for improvement. I think they grew so fast and rolled out their Facebook Ads program before they could really create a good UI.

    However, the potential for Facebook Ads is encouraging. In some verticals that I am testing on I am seeing a higher conversion % than Google Adwords.

    I should really write up a formal post on this but here are some quick tips on Facebook Ads:

    If you use Google Analytics don’t submit any URL’s to FB w/o first running them through the Google URL Builder.

    Use a consistent naming structure so you know how each ad is performing when you look through GA.

    Test several Ad Variations/images to see what gets you the highest click through rate.

    More focused (keywords you target) FB Ads will get you higher click through rate and a lower CPC.

    If I write up an article on FB Ads I’ll post the link here.

    Oh and until recently you were able to use multiple $50 Free Trial FB Ads Coupons that FB was giving away on the same account. So you could try a new ad, spend the $50 and if was converting keep it running if not pause/delete it. FB finally wised up and stopped this. But give it a try it might still work for you.

  • Thanks Dante!

    Would love to see a formal post on FB ad tips. In addition:

    Images in ads typically get a higher CTR.

    Use the “keyword targeting” option with caution as this can significantly narrow your audience and not always in a good way.

    Always a good idea to run ads and have them point directly to your fan page in order to boost/maintain new fan rate.