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Google and Facebook: Disruptive duopoly or goldmine of leads for business?

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Richard Calkin is founder of Webgenius.

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Richard Calkin is founder of Webgenius.

OPINION: Love them or hate them, US online media giants Google and Facebook’s growing stranglehold over internet traffic globally is causing headaches for some segments of the economy, while creating opportunities for others.

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With my concerned Kiwi citizen hat on, I share the unease about how this trend is drawing advertising revenue away from the traditional media, inhibiting their ability to maintain a free press capable of holding our institutions to account and protecting our freedom of expression.

And the fact that neither of the behemoths pay anything like a fair share of tax here given the revenue they extract from New Zealand is galling.

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However, when I put on my digital marketing hat I am much less conflicted.

There is no getting around the fact that Google and Facebook are easily the most cost effective online sources of qualified leads for most Kiwi businesses.

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An analysis of the hundreds of Google and Facebook advertising campaigns managed by Web Genius on behalf of Kiwi small to medium businesses shows an average cost per website visitor over the past year of around $1.17 from Google and $1.28 from Facebook.

The same analysis of other sources of traffic typically returns figures up to 10 times this amount and higher.

Not only do the two giants deliver leads much more cheaply, they are also able to provide a seemingly endless supply.

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The reality is that sheer weight of numbers and economies of scale make it extremely difficult for other advertising media to compete with the duopoly.

So as an online advertising medium, which is better: Google or Facebook? Unsurprisingly the best answer is: it depends.

The following explanation, while somewhat oversimplified to emphasise the main points, outlines some of the key issues.

For products and services where the customer has a specific need and is actively searching for a known solution, then Google search ads – the small text ads that appear as part of the Google search results – are usually the best option.

In these situations involving “active customer intent”, the customer is “problem-aware” and “solution-aware” but not “brand-aware”.

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RNZ

In RNZ’s podcast The Detail: Australia is in a showdown with Google and Facebook over a new code to make them pay publishers for their stories or face multi-million dollar fines.

Google ads are so powerful because they target solution-aware prospects via the keywords they enter into the search engine.

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This means your advertising messages and brand can be introduced to them at the very time they are looking to make a purchasing decision.

All that is usually required to convert a good proportion of customers with active intent is to link the ad to an effective sales page which emphasises their problem and presents the benefits of the advertiser’s solution before making it easy to get in contact.

Typical examples of businesses with active customer intent which do well using Google ads are home and trades service businesses like plumbers, electricians, roofers, tilers and landscapers.

The opposite of “active customer intent” is “latent customer intent”, where the customer is problem-aware, but not solution-aware, let alone brand-aware.

In these situations Facebook ads are often the most effective, because they are not yet far enough through the sales process to be actively searching on Google for the solution.

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Rather than using keywords, Facebook ads focus on a specific audience based on their interests and demographics, allowing advertisers to target groups of prospects regarding a problem that many within the group are likely to be aware of.

The ads – which typically appear as sponsored posts directly in the prospect’s Facebook feed – attract their attention by emphasising the problem before enticing them into a “sales funnel”.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Mark Lennihan/AP

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

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The funnel takes these problem-aware prospects through a series of steps where they are educated to become solution and brand aware, before being encouraged to purchase the advertiser’s products and services.

An example of a Facebook sales funnel would be an insurance broker who targets Facebook users with an interest in small business ownership highlighting the problem that many small businesses are underinsured and therefore at risk.

The ad offers these problem-aware prospects a free audit of their business insurance via a quick online questionnaire that is linked to from the ad.

The resulting insurance audit highlights the prospect’s problem, before presenting the advertiser’s solution.

And because the questionnaire has captured the prospect’s contact details they can be followed up offline.

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To decide which of Google or Facebook ads you should choose, the first step is to define the main problem that you solve and figure out if a majority of your prospects are actively searching online for the solution.

If so, Google ads linking to a simple sales page are probably your first port of call.

On the other hand, if they are aware of the problem, but are typically not actively searching for the solution, then Facebook ads leading to a sales funnel is most likely the way to go.

Either way, while the two media giants continue to drive change to the business models surrounding the crucial role played by media in society, savvy businesses can take advantage of the lucrative source of leads on offer from the disruptive duopoly.

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Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey

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Facebook has had its share of controversies this year. The company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents.

Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.

Yahoo Finance notes, “Facebook has had its share of controversies this year.” Starting in January, Meta-owned WhatsApp got caught up in a huge controversy after the messaging app announced a new privacy policy (Terms of Service). WhatsApp said it would collect user information and share it with third-party apps for a better user experience. However, the app gave users no choice but later made modifications to the policy under pressure. Similarly, the company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents showing the company’s problematic practices. It was revealed that Meta-owned Instagram had a negative impact on teenage girls, but the company did almost nothing to rectify the problem.

Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.

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However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.

On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.

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Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal

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In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.

In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.

Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws

It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.

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Russian social media laws

As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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