Is Facebook too Sticky for its own Good?


In the worlds of internet advertising, marketing, and website performance, “sticky” is normally a good thing. It means that your website or promotions are doing their job, keeping people interested and increasing your chances of achieving your end goal from their visit. Facebook has long been one of the stickiest sites on the internet, racking up more time on site than just about any other (though YouTube also has a claim to that).

Unfortunately, this stickiness works both ways. Advertisers have been seeing the effects of this stickiness for some time. In essence, people don’t want to leave the site to visit advertisers. It’s a problem that’s growing, particularly with the rise of mobile use in social media.

In many ways, it’s their own fault. They’ve created a walled garden of a site with fewer exit points than most. Sure, there are links throughout being posted by businesses and individuals. There are ads that link out. The ability to leave the site isn’t too hard to find. The willingness to do so is becoming more and more elusive.

From an advertiser’s perspective, many have chosen to try to work within the bounds of Facebook, to gain exposure and branding on the site rather than direct people off the site. This, too, can be a challenge because there are limited ways that people can interact with a business directly through Facebook. “F-Commerce” has been a “thing”, then it wasn’t, then it tried again, then it failed. It seems that ever since the dawn and subsequent failure of Facebook Beacon back in 2007, the social network has been unable to truly grasp how to make the site truly advertiser-friendly.

It’s a matter of intent versus revenue. On one side, the company wants people to continue to enjoy the site, interact with their friends, and “keep it real” without the disturbances associated with other sites. On the other hand, they (and their shareholders) want to make money. It may not be possible to do one well without sacrificing the other.

From an advertiser’s perspective, it’s best to use Facebook as a branding and messaging tool similar to television, but with interactions possible. Dollar for dollar, it’s very hard to get relevant clicks to a website from Facebook the way that other forms of online advertising work. People go to Google with the intention of leaving the site immediately. They go to Facebook with the intention of staying on Facebook.

We will see more attempts by Facebook to make their advertising platform perform better, but every new idea will detract from the user experience. They’ve always tried to have their cake and eat it too, but it may be time to make some hard decisions and take full advantage of their immense user base. Otherwise, they may end up becoming the site that always had the potential to be a money maker but was never willing to do what it took to actually get there.

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  1. I think this is a two-fold problem. In addition to the sticky nature of Facebook, brands are also fighting user behavior. It’s become a become a looming issue within travel and tourism over the past year. Most people engaging with destination vendors through Facebook are primarily researching deals or packages, which sounds like a perfect opportunity for conversion but vendors who use widgets that allow for purchases within Facebook show a very low rate of conversion. Travelers come to Facebook to research and share, not to buy. If Facebook users won’t purchase within the platform and Facebook’s stickiness continues to adversely affect CTR’s to owned assets, brands will become less enamored with Facebook than they already are. You noted that people who use Google are predisposed to click out of the site when they find what they need. Perhaps that predisposition would carry over and people would be more inclined to purchase within Google+.

  2. JD Rucker

    @Lisa – Google+ would have to integrate the standard Google advertising model into the platform and allow for much more robust page building for it to really start working. For Facebook, they know that the best way for them to make it work is to get a proper search functionality and to integrate an offsite ad network. They have the data. They just have no way to present it properly to turn it into cash. Yet.