Originally published in iMediaConnection.com on August 29, 2012.
Facebook is the darling of the social media world. Everybody’s there, so your brand has to be there.
Or does it?
While most brands are desperately trying to develop a Facebook strategy and build their presence and “likes,” the reality is that a Facebook presence isn’t the right thing for many brands to be focused on. For example, one of my clients has 1,500 or so Facebook fans. For the client’s industry, 1,500 is a good number of fans — but it pales in comparison to the half million website visits it has had in the first half of this year. Completely ignore the 1,500? OK, maybe not ignore — but the client should recognize that what’s really going on for its brand is happening on a much greater scale in other places.
So why do brands believe so strongly they need to be present? There are a lot of myths about Facebook that marketers don’t understand. In this article, I’ll take a look at those myths and make a case for why certain brands do not need to spend their time on Facebook.
Myth 1: Brand advocates actively promote your brand
This is the big reason why most brands look at Facebook. The idea that brands will get thousands of brand enthusiasts out there actively promoting their brands is pretty intriguing. After all, word of mouth has always been one of the most effective means of promotion — but for most, the scale isn’t really there, and brand advocacy isn’t something people do on a regular basis.
Using myself as an example, I’m an avid coffee drinker (much to my cardiologist’s dismay). I love a great cup of coffee, and I do have a preference for where I like to stop in for a cup. But it’s not a singular preference, and I’ll grab coffee wherever I happen to be. I’m a Facebook fan of both the green mermaid and the brand that America runs on, but I don’t run around preaching to my friends about what a great cup of coffee is or where to get it. I’ve “liked” promotions run by both of these companies on Facebook. Do I meet the criteria of a brand advocate? Not really.
If you think about it, do you have any friends who you’d say are really brand advocates? Someone who tells me once that they really like their new iPhone or Android or Blackberry isn’t a brand advocate; they are just a friend with a positive experience. We all have those every day and share them online and offline.
True brand advocates get paid to advocate for brands. Tiger Woods is a brand advocate for Nike. Skiers who finish a race and quickly hold their skis up next to them for the cameras are brand advocates — and they are rewarded handsomely for it. There’s still no such thing as a free lunch.
Myth 2: If we’re on Facebook, we’ll reach the whole world
I love reading the stories that talk about how big Facebook is. By population, it is the second largest “country” in the world. Wow, that’s great potential reach — but just having people using Facebook doesn’t mean they’ll see your brand.
Recently, the “whole world” was watching the summer Olympics. What a great way to reach the world! But the reality is, for most brands, you don’t need to reach the whole world. You need to reach a select niche audience. I’d bet that most companies didn’t have an Olympics marketing strategy, primarily because they didn’t need to reach the whole world.
A long time ago, when I was building my first website (1993), the client suggested that it wanted its homepage to be bookmarked by everyone as their homepage — the first place everyone visited when they went online. While it’s an interesting thought (and back then, the internet audience was small enough it might have been remotely feasible), the client’s brands and services weren’t appealing to everyone, and the company was never going to get there. So while reach is an important thing to consider, targeted reach is what you really need.
Myth 3: Facebook is an engagement platform for brands
Facebook is really an engagement platform for people. Adoption by younger and older generations is driven by the opportunity to connect with people. They share important events that happen to them and follow the events from others. They share pictures and watch kids grow up. They get to peek in on events they can’t attend in person. And then we’ve all come across the friends who post too much and, in turn, have made the effort to “hide” those friends from our feeds.
A couple of years back, we wanted to “like” brands so we could see what their offers were. But all too often, brands became that annoying friend who posted too much, and we quickly learned to hide or unfriend those brands. Brands also started building out complex Facebook platforms with lots of functionality and engagement tools, but the reality is that the news feed is the core of Facebook activity. Complex portals garner some interest, but at the end of the day, the news feed is where most of the users are.
Myth 4: Facebook advertising reaches all Facebook users
Roughly half of Facebook usage is now done on mobile devices, which for the most part do not display Facebook ads. Yes, Facebook is working hard on getting this functionality to the small screen and is seeking new opportunities for advertising. And I have to commend Facebook on what it does offer to advertisers. Its targeting options are hard to beat, CPC buying allows for greater efficiency, and it has come up with some pretty unique ways to incorporate your friend stream into messaging. But, until the ads get really integrated into mobile, Facebook (and brands) are missing a lot of opportunities to engage on the mobile platform.
If you really want to reach folks on mobile, there are a lot of other options that should be considered. While I haven’t spoken with any of the folks at GM who pulled their Facebook advertising last year, my guess is that lack of mobile was a factor in that decision.
Myth 5: All my followers will see my posts
OK, so here’s the big one. Brands post on Facebook all the time, but your news feed doesn’t show you all the posts by everyone you’re following. By default, Facebook shows posts from people you’ve recently interacted with or interacted with the most; it no longer displays every post. There is a setting that allows users to see all posts, but since it’s not the default, I expect most users haven’t changed the settings.
Not only are the posts limited, but I also have started noticing that many users are getting better and better at scanning through posts. Just like we all have developed a form of “ad blindness” that lets us quickly overlook ads on web pages, drive past billboards without noticing, and tune out radio ads in the background, we see a similar type of scanning in which people look through their news feeds and tend to focus on the posts that are most relevant to them.
Hopefully dispelling some of these myths will help you better understand how Facebook should fit in your brand strategy — if at all. Should you completely ignore it? Probably not. But you should probably take a much closer look at your priorities and the time being spent on the platform to ensure you’re not chasing windmills.