Facebook – Love It or Leave It?
Ever since Facebook was founded back in 2004, it has held a reputation as the big social media kid on the block. The veritable 800-pound gorilla, Facebook now boasts over 1.1 billion accounts and 400 million active users.
In fact, much of the social media terminology that is commonplace today can be sourced to Facebook. Likes, Fans, Pokes, Shares, etc., are all original Facebook terms. The Collins English Dictionary added “Facebook” and all its extensions in 2008. “Unfriend” was the Word of the Year in 2009, in the New Oxford American Dictionary. (Defined as: a verb that means to remove someone as a “friend” on a social networking site such as Facebook, as in, “I decided to unfriend my roommate on Facebook after we had a fight.”)
It’s well chronicled how Facebook was initially used when it launched. Focusing exclusively on the university demographic, Facebook was intended to provide a running status on students and their networks of friends: who they are dating, where they are going, what they like, pictures of their pets, and so on.
Facebook’s unique ability to support businesses and their marketing needs weren’t really a focal point in the early days. In 2007, Facebook had just 100,000 business pages. Today, it boasts 13 million local and small business pages, with 8 million active on a regular basis. Since January of this year, Facebook has seen a 40 per cent increase in active local business pages. Clearly, the Facebook platform has become an invaluable tool for small and medium businesses looking to build their brands. Facebook continues to evolve and improve its capabilities to support businesses.
Why Should Businesses Love Facebook?
1. Targeted Advertising Platform – In June 2011, DoubleClick statistics showed that Facebook had reached 1 trillion (yes with a “t”) page views. The fact that there is an opportunity to get your brand in front of a large community makes Facebook a powerful marketing tool. Facebook’s platform allows businesses to target ads to specific demographics and geographies.
2. Promoted Posts – In June 2012, Facebook launched the ability to promote posts for as little as $5 in order to reach more friends and fans. As of December 2012, 300,000 pages had promoted 2.5 million posts. The value of promoted posts is that they can be targeted to specific demographics, similar to Facebook Ads.
3. Two-way Conversations – Facebook is one of the few social platforms that actually allow a small business to engage directly with its customers, or followers on a 1-to-1 basis. Questions, dialogue, customer service related issues, feedback, complaints, etc., can be solicited and addressed through Facebook. It provides an opportunity to develop relationships and provide more responsive service.
Why Should Businesses Leave Facebook?
1. Technical Challenges – Think about the technical complexity of supporting a user base of over 400 million active accounts, and in particular, the data storage and retrieval requirements. It’s staggering. Facebook is continually evolving its platform and services, but if can be frustrating for the average user. Updates are rolled out with little to no notification. There is actually a Facebook page that details the known issues called, what else?: https://www.facebook.com/KnownIssues.
2. Bang for the Buck – Despite Facebook’s emphasis on supporting advertising and promotions, do businesses actually get value for their ad spend? One of the common complaints about Facebook is that it generally has poorer click-through rates on its ads than the web in general, about one-fifth as many. In addition, Facebook’s edge rank algorithm can be confusing. This is what determines whether a post will surface in an individual user’s news feed. So you can spend money on promoting a post, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone in your network will see it.
3. Businesses Don’t Set Explicit Goals for Success – Facebook is not the silver bullet marketing platform that will solve all your revenue problems. It needs to be part of your social media plan, which in turn needs to be part of your overall marketing plan. You have to set goals that align back to your overall objectives. If you think that, simply by being on Facebook, you can generate qualified sales leads, you’re probably mistaken.
Unfortunately, the Love It or Leave It paradox is not binary. There are things about Facebook to love and there are things about Facebook that make you cringe. Our verdict: LOVE IT. But loving it is not for the faint of heart. It has to be incorporated into a sound marketing strategy and tied back to specific objectives. It needs to assist you in connecting with potential customers you care about, and it has to be able to amplify your brand voice.