If Facebook’s Not Cool, Brands Don’t Have To Be Either

Christmas comes round every year and so, it seems, do discussions about whether or not Facebook is still cool and/or whether it is being abandoned by teens. On a recent earnings call, Facebook’s Chief Financial Officer, David Ebersman, seemed to suggest that maybe younger audiences had started to tire of the social network:

We are pleased that we remain close to fully penetrated among teens in the U.S. Usage among U.S. teens overall was stable from Q2 to Q3, but we did see a decrease in daily users, specifically among younger teens

Many took this as a sign that the sky was falling. But, since then, Facebook has made a number of pretty convincing statements to suggest this isn’t the case.

high voltage

It’s not that teens aren’t using the service. It’s more that, particularly on mobile, Facebook is just one of a number of services they use. (This may explain why the company supposedly bid $3 billion for Snapchat, an offer which was rebuffed.) But Facebook still plays an important part in the lives of teens, and it’s one that Mark Zuckerberg has long targeted: that of a utility.

This quest to provide value through utility, rather than chasing every ephemeral fad, is one that many brands would do well to mimic (though Facebook isn’t entirely guilt-free in that area). The simple fact is that there are very few brands that can realistically and authentically claim any sort of coolness. Nike, Apple, Red Bull & Coke are a few that spring to mind — and that’s not just because of the products they make, but also thanks to years of clever and thoughtful positioning and marketing.

In a world where people have better BS detectors than ever before, it’s nigh on impossible to just project this sort of image onto your own brand, which makes providing some sort of utility a much smarter move. This fact has been recognised not just by Mark Zuckerberg, but also by serial entrepreneur Evan Williams (co-founder of Blogger & Twitter) when he said that the internet is simply:

“…a giant machine designed to give people what they want… (and is) connecting everyone and everything, every event and every thought, in multiple ways…”

With this in mind, brands are almost certain to find it easier to provide utility than to be the coolest kid on the block, and social media is often the best way of ensuring that utility is one that a large number of people find out about, just as they provide the best way of sharing great stories, as demonstrated in my last post.

So, it could be Nike providing you with a way of tracking your runs, Red Bull providing an easy way to showcase your best Instagram shots or eBay providing a tool to make it easier to buy Christmas gifts. It might be Heineken providing the perfect companion app for Champions League Football, InterContinental Hotels creating iPad travel guides or Starbucks allowing you to gift a coffee with a tweet.

What it probably isn’t is brands posting pictures of kittens in a short-sighted effort to game Facebook’s algorithms. That might drive links, but it’s not going to push any long-term connection or association of your brand with utility or service, which are two of the killer apps in the modern world of marketing.

What, then, of Facebook? Well, as mentioned above, Facebook is the platform that ensures enough people find out about your great product, service or utility. Because as Professor Byron Sharp highlights in his (must-read) book How Brands Grow, great marketing is nothing without scale and Facebook, like all great utilities, is built for scale.

Disclosure: Nike & InterContinental are current clients of Mindshare.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Social Media Marketing Column


About The Author: is the Chief Digital Officer for Mindshare Australia, where he is responsible for the overall digital output of the agency, including ensuring that search, social, mobile and video are integrated into the broader marketing mix. He has worked in online marketing since 2000 at a number of publishers and agencies.

Sign Up To Get This Newsletter Via Email:  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. You can read more about our comments policy here.

Comments are closed.


Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Marketing Land on Twitter @marketingland Like Marketing Land on Facebook Follow Marketing Land on Google+ Subscribe to Our Feed! Join our LinkedIn Group Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Marketing News!

Marketing Day is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!