No point advertising on Facebook?

Firstly, congratulations to Facebook on reaching 350 million users worldwide.  That’s pretty impressive since they are only 5 years old.

The reason I mention this is that I read an article in the Observer by John Naughton suggesting that despite this huge audience, it “cannot be tapped”.  He goes on to argue that paid search is the only form of online advertising that works. He rounds off his article with the following statement:

“The inescapable conclusion is that anyone who thinks advertising is the key to sustainable online businesses in any field other than search should think again.”

I can’t help but feel that this piece was written by someone who doesn’t have a great deal of knowledge on the subject of making Facebook work for advertisers, or the online ad industry in general. Firstly, I know from first hand experience that advertising on Facebook can, and does work for Facebook. For one of my clients we are generating more activity than all of their other online channels (paid search included!) put together. I don’t want to dwell on the subject but you can read more here.

The other point he makes is that only paid search works and advertising in any other channel in unsustainable. Frankly, there are a lot of people working in the digital industry across a wide rang of channels and disciplines that would beg to differ.  Of course, search is always going to deliver a high return on investment but display, affiliates and social media all have a part to play in driving incremental sales online. He also fails to account for the impact of branding online and the impact this has on consumer choice. There a so many fantastic creative agencies out there producing great work – so does the fact that less than 1% of people click through on that creative mean we should all give up and go home?

I would expect more from a piece in the Observer.

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