Facebook is Not a Strategy

by Ken Mueller on August 30, 2012 · 29 comments

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oh no 300x225 Facebook is Not a StrategyA local burger joint recently ran into some problems on their Facebook page. Apparently a number of customers weren’t happy with either the food or the service, and they voiced their complaints on the Facebook page. This is a reality of how social media works, and any business that uses social media, particularly Facebook, better be prepared for the worst.

Sadly, this business wasn’t prepared, and the situation went from bad to worse. The business responded in a less than cordial way, and then the negative comments were deleted. As people noticed their comments disappearing, they commented again. It became very clear that the person managing the page wasn’t prepared, and within a short period of time, the page was unpublished. Seemed like a case of,

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Eventually the page came back, with no indication that anything had gone wrong, other than the following status update:

We want to thank everyone for their patience and understanding last night. Unfortunately we were experiencing computer difficulties. We apologize if you experienced anything short of exceptional service. We strive to deliver you the most outstanding customer service and food quality. We have corrected all technical issues and look forward to serving you today!

That’s right, rather than handling the situation, they engaged in excuses and deception.

Why did this happen? Most likely because this business had the mindset of so many other businesses, small and large. They viewed Facebook as a strategy. The thought process goes something like this:

Social media is hot, so we need to do social media. Facebook is hot, so let’s create a Facebook page. Oh look! We’re doing social media!

The reason I know this is because I see it all the time. I get calls from businesses all the time asking:

“Can you set up a Facebook page for me?”

My first response is:

“Why?”

I want to know why they want a Facebook page, and what they plan on doing with it. Is it just for the purpose of having a page? Will they use it? Is it part of a larger marketing and communications strategy? Do they really understand what social media and Facebook are all about? And yet there are plenty of social media businesses and even large ad agencies that will slap a Facebook page together for you for a few hundred, or thousand, dollars. But that doesn’t make it right, or effective.

Honestly, for many small businesses, Facebook might be the only social platform you use, and in some cases that’s OK, if you know what you’re doing, and your not doing what I call:

Facebook for Facebook’s sake.

One should never embark on any sort of marketing or communications tactic or use any tool without first understanding how it works, and then having a plan for how you will use it. Beyond that, you should have a plan for what you will do if something happens to go wrong. Trust me, things will go wrong. Consumers understand that they have a new found voice with new found power as they engage with businesses on social media. I’ve seen businesses taken hostage on their own Facebook pages.

This is not to scare you, because none of that is a reason for running away from Facebook, Twitter, or any other social channel. But if you’re in retail, and especially in the hospitality industry, you know that people complain. There are those who complain even when there’s nothing to complain about. Someone is always unhappy. And whereas in the past they might have told you on the phone or to your face, they will now tell you in a way that the whole world can see.

What is your social media strategy? Why are you using social media in general, and more specifically why are you on Facebook?

Matt Dickman of Weber Shandwick addressed a lot of these issues in a recent edition of the Brand Fast-Trackers podcast, where he offered a number of important thoughts to help you make sure you understand social media and aren’t just jumping in because everyone is doing it. You should listen to the entire interview, but here are a few of the points he made:

  • Social media needs a clear direction that ties back to the business.
  • The role of social media is to affect change on business goals.
  • You need to have buy in from the top.
  • There should be an engagement strategy, not a Twitter strategy – don’t talk about channels (Facebook), but talk about your goals and overall strategy, and THEN how are you going to fit the channels into that.
  • You need to mitigate risk before you start using social media.
  • You run risks with your employees if you don’t have a proper social media policy in place.

Dickman gives one of the best descriptions of social media, and how it works, that I’ve ever heard:

“Social media…is the exact intersection where brand and reputation collide…It’s the intersection of what you say about yourself, and what people actually think about you. That, to a brand marketer, I think, should be really frightening…Marketers talk about brand, communicators (PR) talk about reputation. This space brings them both together. There’s inherent risk in that.”

Again, this is not to scare you, but to educate you so that when you jump into the social space, it’s not just a matter of slapping a Facebook page together and expecting great things.

Facebook is not a strategy. Twitter is not a strategy. A blog is not a strategy.

These are tools that you can use as part of your larger, business wide communications strategy. If you look at Facebook as a strategy, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Look at your business model and structure. Understand your communications strategy and brand. Articulate your business goals. And only then should you begin to look at how social media might fit into that.

What’s your approach to social media and Facebook? Do you have the proper mindset, or are you merely using Facebook because, well, everyone else is?

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23 comments
willeburger
willeburger

I think this article is critically important for small business owners that may not have the luxury of a marketing team or even an overall marketing strategy. Facebook is an organic entitty that can begin to define your brand on its own, by the customers.

KirkHazlett
KirkHazlett

Well-stated, Ken, and something I definitely can share with my budding Communication stars in my "Social Media Communication" course.

The question that we have to ask when excitedly informed by our clients/supervisors that "we're going to set up a (fill in the blank) page," as you so clearly state, is "WHY?"

Bright, shiny objects do not address and resolve communication issues or challenges. Well-thought-out rationale for communicating, reinforced by logical implementation of communication initiatives, does.

KDillabough
KDillabough

My phrase to my clients is this: "If you don't know the WHY, the HOW doesn't matter." Regardless of what it is we're talking about in business, there needs to be a reason and a result. Cheers! Kaarina

girlseeksplace
girlseeksplace

My goals are pretty in line with my social media use, although they could probably use a revamp. Things are getting pretty stale, especially on my blog.

MoreInMedia
MoreInMedia

I happen to be  social media manager and just started an 8 part series titled social media 101: basic skills for business owners.  The 'lingo' (FB, Twitter and LinkedIn lingo) workshop was first.  Guess what we'll tackle next month:  Strategy!  I see that people need it, they need to understand a bigger picture and I do get resistance from clients who just want 'a fb page'.  I do ask them 'why'...?  I also stress that more platforms CAN be better for increased traffic to their website, but more importantly, the quality of the platform i.e is it a good fit for their industry is much more important.  Love your blog-post and book marked it for reference when I make my PowerPoint for the next workshop!    

barrettrossie
barrettrossie

Ken, this post is so important for the kind of businesses I work with. As I was reading along, I was thinking exactly what came next:

"One should never embark on ANY SORT OF MARKETING OR COMMUNICATIONS TACTIC or use any tool without first understanding how it works, and then having a plan for how you will use it."

So many businesses are completely reactive in their marketing. It's a huge problem for the businesses, and it gives all of marketing a black eye. 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

I have to say, I've heard a lot less of "get us on Facebook" this year than I have in the past, which tells me business leaders are figuring out they don't necessarily need to be there if their customers aren't there. But the burger joint you illustrate? There is no reason for that anymore. People need to learn how to say they're sorry.

katskrieger
katskrieger

Thanks for the awesome call out Ken. It was a great episode. What startled me most about the episode with Matt is that in his experience most of his clients (Fortune 500 companies - huge brands) still are not tying their social stategies to overall business objectives. If the big guys can't get it right, then that should be very telling on how difficult this is for small and large businesses alike.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@barrettrossie It really does. "Facebook is hot! Let's get a Facebook page! OK....now what?"

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@ginidietrich Where I hear it the most is from small businesses that are run by older men (er...my age demographic). They are the last ones to get on board. The problem is that there are plenty of social media folks out there who sell this kind of service, and tell them that's all they need. It seems quick and easy. A real strategy, on the other hand, apparently requires time and work. Go figure. 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@NancyMyrland Thanks, Nancy. Facebook can be an amazing tool, if you approach it the right way. But it's rapid success is one of the reasons everyone thinks that's all they need to do. Drives me nuts.

barrettrossie
barrettrossie

@katskrieger @ginidietrich "They're being almost too meticulous before jumping in." 

I'm really interested in this.  

-  Are they B2B or B2C? -  Are they missing opportunities by being too cautious?-  How long have they been in the "listening" phase that everyone recommends? -  And how do you determine when they should jump in, and how far they should jump?

I anxiously await the experts' reply.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@katskrieger It really is amazing, but I'm starting to see small businesses come around. Hopefully that continues. And it really was a great episode.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

That's why I always say a social media expert is someone with a Twitter account and a keyboard. Too many are out there just setting up pages without any communications/marketing/advertising experience to make them work against a business strategy.

barrettrossie
barrettrossie

@katskrieger @ginidietrich @ginidietrich @katskrieger Ooh, great point Gini. Leadership leads to all kinds of opportunity. Isn't that a great way to present it? (I'm sure you've tried...)

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@barrettrossie @katskrieger @ginidietrich There are so many B2Bs that are missing out because they don't think it's relevant. The beauty is, so few B2Bs are doing it, or doing it well, so even though social and Facebook aren't "new" anymore, they still have a shot at a real first mover advantage in their particular sector. IF they do it right.

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