Love it or hate it or think you can ignore it, Facebook is king for market research and engaging customers. I've been saying this since Facebook introduce business pages in 2009. And in spite of the growth of numerous innovative social platforms, Facebook is more dominant than ever. Why?
NOTE ADDED FEB 20, 2019: Nearly two years later this is still true! Notes added below.
1. More users, and a wider demographic of users, than any other social platform.
This makes Facebook the single best platform for reaching more and a wider variety of people.
2. More engagement options = more nuanced feedback.
react (love, wow, haha, sad, angry)
share w/numerous options
private message the poster
view larger image
visit a website
linger without engaging (reported as viewing time for videos, and reported indirectly if you know how to read the tea leaves for static visuals)
Other social platforms offer some of these options, but not all. Display advertising on websites and in mobile apps ("digital") has even fewer options. This means Facebook gives you more nuanced feedback from your viewers.
3. A balance of visuals and text.
Visuals dominate on Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc. Yes there's text but it's barely noticeable. That makes it hard to tell a story. Twitter is dominated by text; sure there are visuals but they're not always displayed, and they'll not what people go to Twitter for.
Facebook displays posts with a nice balance visuals and text. Visuals get peoples' first attention, but the text is relatively prominent, so you can say more that can't be said on the others.
NOTE ADDED FEB 20, 2019: Stories is changing this – less text, though it is easier to incorporate text into the visuals. Stories is likely to split audiences into people who surf the feed and people who surf stories.
4. A mature platform, so not targeted by spammy growers.
Aggressive growth is the order of the day on Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. A lot of engagement is not from interested customers but from aggressive growers – brands, influencers-on-the-make, etc. On Instagram, for instance, bots target posts based on hashtags then engage with likes or generic comments. It's hard to if number of followers or engagement rates are meaningful.
You want to be growing on these platforms too, no question about it. (Just grow carefully – keep junk followers to a minimum.) But for market research and feedback on what works and what doesn't, engagements on Facebook are more reliably from actual interested customers.
5. WAY MORE information about users
Facebook knows way more about the interests, demographics, and purchase behaviors of people than any other social or digital advertising platform, more than any corporate data aggregator, more than any government agency. Waaay more. (My designers hate when I use italics!)
This means you can target incredibly detailed audiences using Facebook. It takes research and testing – you won't get immediate gratification – but it's head and shoulders above all the others in reaching the right combination of interests, demographics and purchase behaviors.
Sure, today, but what about tomorrow?
Facebook is a juggernaut. They have the user base, the momentum, and the data advertisers seek. They also own Instagram, and though Insta has its downsides (presently #1, 2, 3 and 4 above), it has two upsides: you can target users with Facebook's amazing audience info (#5 above), and Facebook the company can continue to evolve it to complement Facebook the property's characteristics. They own the popular messaging platforms WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. This gives Facebook a stronghold on social marketing with the top two social platforms, and popular messaging platforms that they'll figure out how to monetize some day.
NOTE ADDED FEB 20, 2019: They are indeed monetizing Messenger and also ads in sponsored stories. Facebook isn’t just a platform, it’s an ecosystem, and if they’re lacking a certain way to make money, they’ll buy it or invent it.
Facebook is hardly in a rush, because the cash is flowing in, and this gives them the cushion to play around. You want to keep growing on Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, whichever social platforms are relevant for your products and services. But for engagement and measurement, Facebook is top dog.