I’ll start this post with the disclaimer that the title may be a little misleading. This article won’t argue that businesses can’t benefit from Facebook pages but it won’t kneel at the altar of Zuckerberg either. The goal here is to shed some light on misconceptions generated by “social media gurus” about the importance of Facebook pages for business, and why your business probably doesn’t need one.
Social media marketers will extoll the merits of Facebook fan pages because, well, they’re drinking their own Kool Aid. They will share usage statistics such as the average amount of time a typical Facebook user spends on the site every day is 55 minutes, which is a good amount of time to engage potential customers. When combined with Facebook Pages features and benefits that may include a possible boost in your site’s SEO, community building opportunities, and direct customer targeting and tracking, a good case can be made for an investment in the social media platform.
This week Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s COO and CEO respectively, penned a thank you letter to business owners who have advertised on the popular social media site. This is not surprising since there are now a reported two million businesses actively advertising on Facebook.
If we are to heed James Surowiecki, the author of the popular book The Wisdom of Crowds, we’d all be jumping on the social bandwagon and creating Facebook pages for our businesses because “the many are smarter than the few.” With so many people active on Facebook and so many businesses advertising to those people, you’d be crazy not to have your business represented there.
Or would you?
Why Your Business Doesn’t Need A Facebook Page
In a recent conversation Howie Goldfarb, who blogs at Blue Star Marketing, shared the following insights:
Coca Cola has pretty much abandoned their Facebook page…in the last 2.5 years they sometimes go 2-3 months between posts and don’t comment on fan posts, many of which are attacks on the brand for the increasing obesity of the American population.
Starbucks was never big on Facebook, despite being touted as an early success story in terms of number of fans. In fact, for a very long period of time, it shared nothing at all.
If two very successful brands are rarely engaging their audiences through Facebook pages, why should your business? Forrester analyst Nate Elliott reports that top brands’ Facebook and Twitter posts only reach around 2% of their fans and followers, and less than 0.1% of fans and followers actually interact with each post on average. Facebook got many people hooked with a free business marketing platform but then, like any good drug dealer, began charging for that to which we became addicted.
The reality is that the customer relationships that Facebook and social media marketers promised to deliver aren’t always available in these large social networks. Online brand communities that were created on sites like Facebook are now relegated to serving up ads and/or “boosted posts” to get the audience’s attention. Brand communications in these channels have been forced back into advertising, the very thing that social media was not supposed to be. Is it any surprise that businesses like Coca Cola and Starbucks have limited their time engaging customers on Facebook?
Invest In Your Own Website
Social networking sites like Facebook will continue to rake in millions in ad dollar revenue but as Elliot shares in his Forrester analysis, “they’re just not the most important sites for social marketers anymore.” Instead of building communities on disparate social networking platforms, why not re-invest that budget into improving inbound leads and building true engagement on your own website or smaller, niche community sites?
Branded communities are not dying; they’re shifting away from many of these third party social networking sites. Savvy marketers are adjusting budgets to create more social interactivity on their own websites including independently managed brand communities powered by software such as TicTalking Communities.
Corporate websites are – finally – becoming the center of the business’s engagement ecosystem. A recent Forrester survey shows that US online adults who want to stay in touch with your brand are almost three times as likely to visit your site as to engage you on Facebook. In fact, the same study reports that online adults are almost twice as likely to sign up for your business emails as interact with your business on Facebook.
Now consider that the majority of your emails are delivered to subscribers but non-paid Facebook post are only delivered to an estimated 2% of your fans. Which would you choose to invest in? Continue to invest in schemes that increase “Likes” and fans on Facebook or create more interest in direct email marketing and on-website engagement?
On this note, check out our newer blog post about “Why Brands Urgently Need Owned Social Media“.
Why Sensei Does Not Have a Facebook Page
Aww…it’s a kitteh!
Unlike many of my colleagues in this industry, Sensei Marketing does not have a Facebook page and I’d say that a week does not go by that I’m not questioned on this. The answer is simple: Our customers don’t want to hear from us on Facebook.
Sure, as individuals they probably have Facebook profiles and may even be part of the demographic that spends up to an hour a day engaging there. However, experience tell us that most are there to stay in touch with their family and friends, laugh at pictures of cats flushing the toilet or playing Words with Friends. It’s a diversion or “down time” vs. “business time” and that’s not a conducive environment to building a professional relationship between my business and its clients.
We receive more customer inquiries from the engagement we generate on our website than we would ever generate on a social networking site where the latest celebrity gossip is going viral. (What WAS the color of that damn dress?!)
Now let’s get back to my original statement: We’re not suggesting that all businesses abandon Facebook and other social networks. Local businesses, where owners and staff can also have personal relationships with prospects, customers, and advocates, could do very well at generating leads and improving customer service.
In fact, while we do not have a Facebook profile, we’ve created and manage successful business pages for some of our clients. The key is to centralize the customer relationship at the place of business or on the corporate website and use social channels as feeders.
The point is don’t follow the advice of every “social media rock star” and social marketing software salesperson who claims they can improve your business through Facebook engagement. Think independently.
Social media marketing success won’t come from just advertising on Facebook (which is really what Facebook for business is). It’s about developing an ongoing relationship with your audience that will start with prospects who turn into customers and customers who turn into advocates. If that relationship is centralized on a social network where you’re paying to engage a small segment of your potential audience while competing with the latest BuzzFeed video, how successful can you be? The customer relationship promised by social media marketing must be owned and centralized on your own digital properties.