Doing Business on Facebook: Philosophy, Stats & Misconceptions

The point of being on Facebook for any size business, is to bring that business TO the people where they are, on their terms.

I don't disagree with stats and numbers. If you are integrating social media into the folds of your business, numbers and data should methodically drive and dictate your next move. Just make sure the data you look at is comprehensive enough to give you as much of a 360 view as possible before allowing it to affect your decision making.

A post recently published called "Survey Reveals Facebook Sucks for Business," from an online marketing company gives us some stats and demographic data from a survey regarding doing business on Facebook and other social activity. The problem with this particular post is that it neglects taking into account those businesses that participated, their ability, or inability, to understand how to strategize and execute on Facebook effectively. In the numbers that are presented, there is no information on the backstory from the various companies that participated in this survey. Numbers like this being used as fact to support a statement as bold as it's title, without showing us what the participants did to yield the negative (and positive) use of Facebook for business, feels like a whimsical journalistic spin-fest to me.

Large and small companies alike hire agencies all the time to help them understand social media, how it can add value to their business, and how to align it to higher level corporate objectives. Let's not assume that those agencies and companies that participated in this survey actually made good decisions or knew what they were doing. Just because we get excited about initiatives and new social campaign plans that we are rolling out, it doesn't mean that if they fail, it's the fault of Facebook or Twitter and all of a sudden statements like "Facebook sucks for business" can be made and substantiated. Not to sound harsh here, but that's ludicrous.

I have run many campaigns large and small on Facebook. Some have succeeded, some have definitely failed. It's an experimental age we are in with business and marketing. Sweeping generalizations like the post I mention above with no comprehensive 360 view of the whole story just confuses businesses that are new to it. Business leaders that are teetering on whether or not they should even try it don't get the full picture from these types of posts. Blog post titles like the one above, showing up in a search results page on Google for 'Social Media' can quickly influence an unsure executive. This will undo all the work that we social media professionals are trying to do to get companies on board, helping them to make sense of this new landscape.

One of the few complete sentences that actually exists in the above-mentioned post (that is very misleading in its current context) states:

While 67 percent of respondents to a recent survey use the social media platform Facebook to promote their businesses, only 29 percent find the site effective for driving traffic to their website.

That sentence in my opinion is backwards and for the most part completely wrong in philosophy. I'd understand if you are trying to link out to traffic in an online store somewhere to convert to a purchase from Facebook. If the execution is done right (cough, Dell, cough, Ford, ahem) then Facebook does NOT suck for business.

For example...

Philosophically, you don't set up a Facebook presence with the primary goal of getting people to leave Facebook. Sending people from your Facebook page to view content that is relevant to your business is only a facet of being on Facebook. People follow you on Facebook because you bring the content to them. When your company decides to jump into the Facebook fray with both feet, the point of being there is to bring your business to the people, where they are, on their terms. Businesses (and agencies trying to help businesses) should not be using it solely as a giant virtual fishing net, cast out and hell bent on taking people away from Facebook after they "Like" their page. Using a website like Facebook with the single goal of redirecting or dumping your customers to your own corporate web properties is not best in class. It's not social. It's old school. Those days are over folks. The writing is on the wall. Pull up a chair, grab some popcorn, and get comfortable with the concept of speeds, feeds, and mobile. This will be the new internet.

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'

To reiterate, I'm not saying there aren't cases where it makes perfect sense to get people to click out to your business blog, head out to your website and buy a product from your online store, or share something relevant, cool, and fun that you found on another website. I'm just saying that those content pieces should be facets of your strategy on Facebook. The core of your effort on Facebook should be executed on, and revolve around, your fans and their activity on the site itself. That's where everyone is. It's a place and an opportunity to make doing online business with you, personal and easy for them.

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