Best of 2012: The Three Things Marketers Keep Forgetting About Facebook

by Ken Mueller on December 27, 2012 · 8 comments

Continuing our look at the top posts of 2012, several of the most active posts were about Facebook. No surprise considering Facebook is not only the most popular social network, but among marketers it is perhaps the most controversial. We love it an we hate it. I have my own issues with Facebook, but I think we as marketers tend to over react to a lot. This post was originally published back in November.

The Three Things Marketers Keep Forgetting About Facebook

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?


Nice post Ken, tons of good resources here. Have a great 2013.


How in the world did I miss the original post?! Such great advice here, Ken. I think to sum it all up, I would say there are no blanket answers. I hate when people talk about social media in absolutes. What's right for one business isn't going to be right for another. I love your analogy about the fish - that's always what PR and marketing have been about, whether we're talking about social media or another medium.

Thanks for including me in this! Such a great variety of perspectives here. It will be interesting to see what 2013 will bring! Happy New Year!


Happy Friday. Nicely stated Ken. I have had the debate with other online marketers who proclaim that all paid social media investments should be migrated from Facebook to Google+. Like you, for now at least, I will make sure to "fish where the fish are" while keeping an active eye Google+ pond, as Google continues to stock Google+ with YouTube, Gmail and Google Apps users ;-) 


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