The Three Things Marketers Keep Forgetting About Facebook

by Ken Mueller on November 12, 2012 · 35 comments

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One of the biggest discussions in the social media and marketing world the past few weeks has centered around Facebook’s algorithmic changes to EdgeRank, the percentage of posts that users see (or don’t see) from businesses, and platform’s attempts at profitability via ads and promoted posts.

In the past two weeks alone there have been a multitude of posts looking at the situation from every angle, including many by friends. Liz wrote about Facebook’s addition of fan page notifications, Lisa wrote about the beta testing of what appeared to be a new feed for pages, and Laura mused out loud as to whether Facebook was no longer a viable option for small businesses.

Then the conversation moved on to the real issue behind all of this: Facebook’s need to make money. Kristin asked if Facebook’s paid promotions were a good idea for business, while Gini noted that promoted posts might remove the level playing field of social media.

One of the things that has come up a lot in posts, and particularly in the comments, is a bit of a rally cry from marketers that perhaps it’s time to walk away from Facebook and had on over to Google+. I think the folks at Steamfeed summed up my feelings nicely when referring to Google+ as the “just in case network“.

With  all of these discussions going on about Facebook, I think that we as marketers often get caught up in what we want as opposed to dealing with the reality of the situation. And with that in mind, I think there are three things about social media and Facebook that we keep forgetting:

1) Location, location, location – If you own a brick and mortar business, you built it in a place where you knew you had customers. Even if there are hurdles or obstacles, it’s important for you to be where your customers are. You would find a way to work with the hurdles and obstacles because it’s important to your business. You wouldn’t move your business to a location far away from your customers, even if it offered fewer hurdles. It’s the old fish where the fish are.

Guess what: despite all it’s problems, Facebook is where the fish are. You can read article after article about numbers and percentages, but Facebook is where people are. And Google+ isn’t the answer, at least not at this point. Most of your fish probably aren’t over there, so for us to talk about jumping from Facebook to Google+ is professional suicide. Any choice you make about which platforms to use should first and foremost be driven by knowing where your customers are.

2) It’s not marketing – While I offer my services in terms of social media marketing, it isn’t really marketing. At least not in the traditional sense. Most of the hand wringing I’m seeing comes from the perspective of, “They’re not seeing my posts!”. This is a legitimate concern, but to focus so heavily on this indicates that we are approaching social media from a more outbound marketing approach, than inbound. We write our messages, spit them out, and want people to see them.

But people don’t want to be sold to. From a user standpoint, not only do we expect businesses to be on Facebook, but we want them there on our terms. It’s more about customer service and experience than it is about marketing. It’s more about them being able to find you when they want you, than about you getting in their face. When they have a question, comment, or issue, they WILL find you on Facebook. Our job is to be there and be ready for them, and this requires a rather large shift in our thinking.

Also, I understand that even Facebook gets this wrong. Why else would they be inundating us with these numbers and algorithm changes, as well as opportunities to spend our money. They want it to be about marketing, but Again, it’s about what customers expect. And right now, customers expect us to be on Facebook. I often hear someone say “Wow, they’re not on Facebook!” I have never heard that about any other platform. “They’re not on Google+?” Never happens.

3) People, not numbers – We marketers get hung up on numbers, and at times, we should. The ROI debate rages on, but I think we often focus too heavily on numbers at the expense of our customers. Even in the pre-social media days, the mantra of the consumer in a world of corporations was:

“I’m not a number!”

This is a part of what I discussed last week in my post about the four waves of social media. I believe that the third wave of social media is where numbers became important (as they should) but perhaps too important. It has been all about numbers, percentages, and the like. But I think the fourth wave is where we pull back a little and find some balance between numbers and humanity. We need to recognize that there is a name and a face behind each number. As Geoff Livingston put it in his introduction to the book The Naked Truth of Social Media, relationships matter the most:

Another core truth that spoke to me was the need to consider social media in the primary context of relationships. Marketers are so quick to apply messaging, ROI and various additional techniques from other disciplines…Yet without understanding that online communities revolve around a foundation of relationships, social media marketing conversations seem to devolve into rules proclamations and debates. The ability to network and truly interact with people becomes paramount to tool talk. Social is inherently relational.

I love the way Geoff puts that, because if you know Geoff, he understands the importance of numbers, ROI, etc. He will talk about the importance of measurement until he’s blue in the face, but he recognizes that none of that means anything without the human side.

So when we obsess over the numbers found in our Facebook analytics, we are doing ourselves a disservice. Are they important? Yes. But they need to be understood within the context of relationships, rather than the context of things like messaging, reach and virality.

So perhaps it’s time to really rethink how we look at Facebook as marketers. Our vision and the vision of individual users are pretty far apart, and that’s not good.

I’ve been accused of being an apologist for Facebook. I’m not. I understand it’s shortcomings, and can get quite angered when they do something stupid (which is often). But I also recognize that for right now, it might be the most important of the social platforms for connecting with your customers.

Are there any other things that the marketing world is forgetting about how we approach social media?

 The Three Things Marketers Keep Forgetting About Facebook
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27 comments
JillKringCarter
JillKringCarter

Great post, Ken! I relate 100% that that last paragraph.  Thanks for saying it!

Steveology
Steveology

@simonpatchett But that has always been true. Small biz just need to be smarter since they don't have big marketing war chests.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Great post Ken!

I am ok if Facebook becomes a place only for big business. Meaning when I buy a national magazine the ads are all national businesses. Might make Facebook more of a people to people platform again.

That said most people act irrationally about the platform even though it is free. I like to say there are two valuable uses for Facebook. First is customer service. As you said probably half or more of your customers have accounts. Even if they are not active users they most likely will come to your page to complain or praise (same with twitter) vs going to your site and emailing. Have a page even if just for that. And if you have great content or product or discussions people will come to your page vs waiting for a ost from you. Have a reeason for them to come they will come via the search bar.

I think the real big question is for marketing can you reach as many people each week as you would from a local 'things to do' paper or local cable tv or local radio in terms of how much resources you want to assign to Facebook.

JCGibbsDC
JCGibbsDC

Agree with your view on Facebook. A FB Business Page is like a customer service department, customers might have questions, but they don't want to he sold to while telling us something, whether is a complain or a regular feedback.

I wonder though if u have a company, with three locations all within the same region (city even) would you still create a separate FB page for each one of t

hem?

Google Plus is affecting mostly because of the reviews and the way people find your business when googling, but I still talk to our audience on FB and Twitter, starting also with the blog!

Thanks for sharing this :)

barrettrossie
barrettrossie

Ken this is great stuff. Can you (or anyone else here) suggest a great resource -- articles, blogs or blog posts, books -- for small businesses and nonprofits who want to get the most out of FB?  (I tend to think that everything gets outdated so quickly...) 

Joanne Elliott aka socialsprite
Joanne Elliott aka socialsprite

I think you're right when you say we shouldn't focus too heavily on how many people see our posts on Facebook because it's not about outbound marketing. I also think we need to keep in mind that if on average any given post is seen by 16% of our fans (a number given by FB) then that's a pretty good number by advertising standards. A 1/8 of a page ad in a newspaper will get noticed by 15% of the readership...and on FB one post by you is in a sea of  hundreds of posts your fans see ever day in their news feed. I think we just need some perspective. 

Thanks for the great post Ken!

DJThistle
DJThistle

"Fish were the fish are" - Does it get any more straightforward than that? Facebook is where it's at. Really great stuff here Ken. 

P.S. Appreciate the SteamFeed mention. :)

geoffliving
geoffliving

Good post, Ken!  Anyone that's cooked a good chili knows that you can have all the best ingredients in the world, but if you don't have any tomato paste, or raw or stewed tomatoes, your screwed.  Tomatoes make the chili a chili. Relationships make social social.

LizJostes
LizJostes

You know what my biggest take-away is from this post? That you know a lot of really intelligent women. :-)

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@HowieG  I'm less interested in big business and more interested in small business. That's where I see the real promise. It's great for creating a strong hyperlocal presence if done right. I think you can reach more people here, even without spending money, based on what I'm seeing in traditional media. The reach of print and local cable and radio is abysmal, and you really can't measure them as well. If you could, I think you would see the numbers are far below what Facebook is offering.

Latest blog post: The Importance of Being Random

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@JCGibbsDC I think the decision to have multiple pages would depend on the situation. My gut feeling is to have one page. One of my clients is a regional chain of 20 restaurants. They have one page for all of them. But I could see options for going the other way as well.

Latest blog post: Having a Spirit of Gratitude

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@barrettrossie Man, I guess I'd be selfish by saying to look at some of my most recent posts. I'm sure there is something, but I'm not aware of it. Mostly blog posts. I know @LizJostes  has a lot of good stuff on Facebook over at http://elirose.com . Wish I had something really good to point you to that had everything you need.

Latest blog post: Having a Spirit of Gratitude

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@Joanne Elliott aka socialsprite That's a good point. The percentages aren't that great for any media, and with social media you can get better analytics than you can for any form of offline media. 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@ginidietrich And this is the discussion we started in the comments of your post last week. I keep hearing people talking about making the switch, but you just can't do it because you don't like Facebook. It would be like the Bears moving to Iowa, just because they like Iowa better than Chicago...

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@LizJostes Haha. It was funny, as I was writing this, I realized that there seem to be a lot more women in this field than men. But I did include Geoff! I guess my male friends haven't written much on this topic, at least that I've seen.

JCGibbsDC
JCGibbsDC

@KenMueller I agree with that, unless someone is planning to give the FB Monitoring/Content responsibility to a specific person at each location, if not it's sort of madness to go with a FB Page per location and the SM/Marketing Manager to take care of each one. - Thanks Ken :)

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