A friend and business colleague recently asked me to share my thoughts on the perspectives of the authors of a new book on Facebook marketing.
I’m always flattered to be asked my opinion (aren’t we all!?!) and always glad for a legitimate opportunity to ponder something. So here are my thoughts-I’d be interested in hearing yours:
Right off the bat, I disagree with the statement in the first section that says: “With Facebook, your market is on Facebook — at least the vast majority of them.” That may or may not be true, depending on who your market is. With any marketing medium you’d really need to do some research to find out if your target audience really *is* being reached. That’s true whether you’re advertising on a radio station or using social media tools like Facebook.
That said, I do agree that Facebook can offer good opportunity to certain types of marketers – particularly those that have a combination of something “visual” to present to an audience (because Facebook is so visually oriented) and a business/product that lends itself to engagement/interest. In the health care field, for instance, I see a distinction between a “hospital” having a site on Facebook and a provider having a site on Facebook. People might want to have a relationship/dialogue with their doctor, but I don’t think they have the same interest in having a relationship/dialogue with the “hospital.” I think many companies would have that same issue.
Another “concern” I have about Facebook as a marketing tool is the endorsement-based approach it takes. I think one of the challenges with Facebook and the way it currently works is that it requires people to “like” something – a person, store, product, etc. Many people are hesitant to do that because it’s pretty obvious that by doing so they’re basically “endorsing” that business/product. I think those who use Facebook as a marketing tool, because of this, are most likely to attract people who are already loyal customers/followers. They may also attract their existing ”friends/acquaintances” who “like” them as a courtesy, but these people may or may not represent their target market. Because of this, I don’t really see Facebook as a very good prospecting tool for building new followers, in most cases.
As far as advertising on Facebook, I think there is potentially some value here, depending again on whether the business’ target audience is engaged with Facebook. I haven’t done much with this, but from what I understand you have the ability to very narrowly target your messages to specific niche audience segments (because of the info that Facebook gathers about its users) – *and* the cost for advertising can be very inexpensive. Plus you can track how many people read your ad, follow the links to your web site and take some action. (I’m going to give a shout-out to Kathy Wright here who is something of a local expert on this topic.)
Will Facebook eventually replace web sites? I have heard talk about Facebook replacing web sites and I think, for certain companies (and, again, depending on their audience), that could happen at some point. I’ve thought the same thing about web sites for consultants/authors, etc., and LinkedIn. Someday the traditional web site may become obsolete.
Whenever I’m asked to comment on the value of social media, or whenever I read or hear comments from others who make claims about social media “replacing” traditional media, my response is always the same. The various social media tools that we now have available to use are great. They represent new and relatively cost-effective (aside from our time…) communication tools. And it’s great to have new options. But are they a replacement? No – not for everyone. Do some people still go to live performances even though they could have a similar experience at the theatre, on television or on YouTube? Of course. Do some people still listen to the radio even though the television has been around since the 1950′s? Yes.
Are the new social media tools wonderful? Yes they are. But they don’t answer every communication question for every communicator. As we seek to achieve our communication goals we need to think logically about the tools we use based on what we know – and what we’re able to learn – about our target audiences.