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  • R.I.P Facebook as a Marketing Platform

    Last Monday, I wrote about how Twitter isn’t a marketing platform anymore and suddenly the web was buzzing. I’ve been blogging since 2006 and I’ve never seen this strong of reaction on my own blog. There were over one hundred comments, seven hundred retweets, and two hundred shares on Facebook. I’ve never felt very controversial, so I didn’t push that post in order to get attention, but now since I have your attention, today I’m going to tackle Facebook as a marketing platform.

    Note: What I failed to mention in my last post is that these posts aren’t geared to mega brands (i.e. Lady Gaga or Coca Cola). They’re for the average professional, whose trying to grow their business by using social media tools.

    Facebook used to be an amazing marketing platform when the news feed was the only feed available to users. I remember updating my status and receiving a lot of comments from people I’ve met or interacted with all throughout my life. But just like Tivo and Caller ID, Facebook created it’s only filtering system, dividing your status updates into two streams: Top News and Most Recent. Although these names have changed over the past year, their purposes have remained consistent with the Facebook platform. The Most Recent feed consists of content from all of your Facebook friends, while the Top News feed is more selective based on an algorithm. When you login to Facebook in the morning, the default feed is Top News. Most of your content will never even be seen by your friends on Facebook, and we’ve also been enabled to “hide” updates from select friends, which is similar to “unfollow” on Twitter.

    My thesis is that Facebook is no longer a suitable marketing platform for your business if you’re looking to convert “friends” into money. Just like Twitter, your message is not viewed by as many people as you’d think, and although the commitment to being a Facebook friend is greater than a Twitter follower, it’s still not strong enough of a bond to yield monetary value.

    Facebook is no longer a viable marketing platform.

    I’m saying this as a heavy user of Facebook since my University was the 16th school to be signed up back in 2005. I have a maxed out Facebook profile, have a Facebook page for Personal Branding, for Personal Branding Magazine, for Me 2.0, for the Student Branding Blog, and I just launched a page for myself.

    The logic

    There is a reason why the value of a Facebook friend is $3.50 versus the value of an email contact, which is $948. I guarantee that most of your Facebook friends are either not your friends or haven’t spoken to you in at least two years. Now, I do like Facebook because it allows you to fulfill the “reconnect” rule of relationship building that I’ve discussed previously on the blog. When I say “marketing platform,” I mean that your friends/list become potential buyers, affiliates, partners, etc.

    The News Feed algorithm has made it very challenging for marketers. Here is what distinguishes posts that appear in the “Top News” section of your feed:

    The News Feed algorithm bases this on a few factors: how many friends are commenting on a certain piece of content, who posted the content, and what type of content it is (e.g. photo, video, or status update). (source: Facebook.com)

    Remember that this algorithm is the same for profiles and pages.

    What happens to your status updates?

    1. You update your Facebook status.
    2. Depending on your previous status updates, the number of comments that you’ve received, which of your friends commented, and if the content is a video or is in standard text, it will be viewed by those users in their Top Stories feed. Otherwise it will be in “Most Recent” with all of the other clutter, which in some cases could be hundreds of updates depending on the amount of friends they have.
    3. If one friend comments on your status update, that comment goes into their friends’ “Most Recent” feed unless their friends also commented on the same story. This is not the viral effect that you would think because there is generally a lack of visibility with a second degree contact.
    4. If no one else sees the status update, then it’s out of sight and out of mind.

    Like Twitter, as Facebook users acquire more and more friends, and “like” pages (which is occurring at an exponential rate), your message get’s lost. Over 100,000 websites have integrated the Facebook “like” button, which has encourages more “liking” and as a result, more clutter!

    Key point: It’s not about how many friends and fans you have on Facebook, but rather how much they evangelize your page and use it as a destination.

    The facts

    As Facebook acquires more users, and your network grows, it will always be harder to make your updates appear in the Top News section. If your updates don’t get into that section, they will get lost. Most Facebook users don’t evangelize product or band pages, so you really won’t get as much mileage on them anyways. This is the reason why most pages don’t have a lot of “fans,” and why Facebook launched the “like” button to encourage friending!

    You can’t trust Facebook

    In a previous post, I gave you some reason why you can’t trust social networks. I was very serious when I wrote that piece. There is no free lunch. We’ve traded our data for the right to use Facebook, which is a non-monetary cost that we still incur. Yesterday, I read a very critical, and short, post by Robert Scoble that linked to this post by Leo Laporte:

    Leo Laporte: “Texas radio station, KNOI Real Talk 99.7 was banned from Facebook for talking about privacy issues and linking to my show and Diaspora. http://knoifm.com/news/1569-facebookdisablesknoi.html” (Robert Scoble’s blog)

    As you can see, if you invest in Facebook as a marketing platform, all of your hard work might be wasted one day when they shut your page down.

    The real applications

    Instead of using Facebook as a marketing platform, try these applications:

    • Customer support: Answer user questions by responding to updates on your page’s wall, and then check back to see if they’ve continued the conversation. This is one of the main benefits of Facebook because conversations are grouped together.
    • Brand awareness: 50% of Facebook users login every day, which means that your brand can be viewed by a lot of users each day, and if people support you, your brand can travel far without advertising.
    • Job searching: Facebook has it’s own marketplace, unlike Twitter, where you can view current job openings in your network. Sadly, not enough people use this feature though.
    • Networking: If you’re looking to connect with your audience, there’s a safe bet that they’re on Facebook.
    • Creating buzz: A lot of brands have succeeded in capturing a lot of followers due to holding contests on their Facebook page. “If you like this page, you’ll receive a pizza.”
    • Recruitment: Facebook’s massive global talent pool makes it attractive for recruiters, and Facebook is already being used for candidate background checks.
    • Researching: You can learn a lot about your target market through reviewing employee updates and if you’re in sales, it can help you connect to the decision maker.
    • Philanthropy: If you want to partner with a charity and raise money, then Facebook fan pages can support your efforts.

    As you can see, Facebook isn’t a great marketing platform. I’m not sure why advertisers are promoting their Facebook and Twitter pages instead of their websites. It would be much wiser to invest in a blog as a landing page instead of using a platform, that you can’t trust, and that doesn’t yield monetary results. Recently, Facebook tried to take down the custom tab feature from pages without asking page administrators first. They reverted back once they received a backlash, but the point is that you don’t know what they are going to pull in the future. It’s better to invest in your website than someone else’s!

    Your turn

    Have you been using Facebook as a marketing platform? What results have you gotten?


    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

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    22 comments on “R.I.P Facebook as a Marketing Platform
    1. avatar
      Franco says:

      Great post, I agree on most points but i think that these social platforms still offer some marketing possibilities, specially if you categorize networking as part of your marketing 🙂 Case in point, I came to your blog just now for the first time via Twitter so if it weren’t for it, I might have never “met” you or saw your site.

    2. avatar

      I learned a lot from this posting. Most of my coaching clients are still struggling with Social Media and how they can use it in their business. Thanks for a great article and information. Most small business owners are overwhelmed with constant changes in this area.

    3. avatar
      Raj Khera says:

      Dan, thanks for an informative post. I appreciate the stats you bring into your posts. One other point that’s worth mentioning is ROI. Being active in social media is very time consuming and many small businesses just don’t have the resources to do it consistently. Would you know if the return they would get from time spent on social media is significantly different than other activities, such as email marketing? (I am the CEO of email marketing firm MailerMailer)

      • avatar
        Dan Schawbel says:

        Most people think they are building their brand for free using social media tools, when really they aren’t. There is a massive time commitment, which is worse $$$.

    4. avatar
      Craig Dooley says:

      Thanks for keeping the debate alive with the RIP theme around social media as marketing platforms – it makes a veteran object strenuously with their own expert opinion and it gives newbies a more balanced view of this ever-evolving world. The most important point you make, for me as a corporate marketing guy, is to hold onto and value our own assets more – our Website, our blog, our direct connections to customers and prospects that we own, control and should use as the platform and home base of our branding. Social media, for me, is primarily another channel, with its own purpose and value – part of the mix.

      I’m a new ‘follower’ of yours – keep up the great work.

    5. avatar

      Interesting point about the way the feeds are split creating a disconnect in your ability to have your content rapidly shared across many degrees of separation without a break in the chain. I need to think on this, thanks for refocusing me on it.

    6. avatar
      Mike July says:

      Hi Dan,

      I am glad you had the guts to say these things out loud. It’s kind of like the thing no one wants to talk about because they’ve talked about how effective SM platforms are for so long.

      FB and Twitter as marketing tools are very hit and miss when it comes to getting a specific message out. From personal experience, I can tell you that it’s rare for a tweet or FB status update including a bit.ly link to be clicked by more than 5% of my total number of friends/followers.


    7. avatar

      Interesting concept… I however tend to disagree. I think a facebook marketing page is like any other web content. If it’s content rich and seen to add value, it will command a loyal following and be more effective in monetizing “relationships”. I think large brands like Coca Cola and Lady Gaga don’t offer the personal relationship concept and therefore lose out of the “relationship” aspect. For smaller companies or brands who work at providing exciting content, I still believe FB is on the way up as a marketing tool!

    8. avatar

      Thank you for this great post. It really helped me understand why some people who work really hard promoting on Facebook do not get the expected results. I entirely agree with you on everything. FB has changed over time, and I truly preferred the way it was a year ago. Even Twitter has changed for the worst.

    9. avatar

      Dan, thanks for the post. Related to both the “trust” issue and the split feeds: As a byproduct of FB’s recent API change (I refuse to call it an upgrade), many people who update their Facebook status via Twitter suddenly discovered that the Twitter post no longer does that! Instead, the tweet goes to the FB wall instead of the status area up top. As you probably know, status updates are more likely to be seen in the “Top News” feed than a general post will.

      This situation has been like this for more than a week now. There’s an FB “discussion board” topic up on it — but not solution presented. Basically, you’re stuck double-posting to Twitter and FB now if you want to ensure that your FB gets updated with the rapidity you’re looking for. It’s looking like the second half of 2010 will see the return of the blog as both a communication and marketing tool.

    10. avatar
      Mary H Ruth says:

      Fabulous post, Dan. Extreme, but worth saying. As others note here, your own cyber real estate should be where your primary investment lies.

    11. avatar
      Me says:

      Hey Dan, what about the Facebook advertisement? You completely ignored it in your article, talking about the branding pages and profiles and in fact the targeted advertisement that Facebook offers is very strong.

      You also ignore the fact that Facebook is not just for converting sales. It helps shifting the power from the companies to the consumers, so the masses can have their influence on the brands. You may question the marketing and business relevance of Facebook, but why did you forget that conversations that may impact your business are likely occurring even now.

      The biggest benefactor of social networks is the marketer. You can’t just say this have come to its end. This marketing channel is too fresh, if social networks are dead – then what about Television, Print and Radio?

      Or did you just wrote this article because it looks interesting and attracts people? And since you obviously have the skills to express yourself more fluently, unlike me, you make a professional looking article out of a nonexistent topic.

      You can delete this comment, I don’t intend to post negative comments on your blog since I like your articles in general, just wanted to reach you.

    12. avatar

      thanks Dan for your poignant post. I agree with you and have followed your advice to get active with a website makeover and a new blog.

      Need/want your feedback on LinkedIn next, please.

      I think LinkedIn status updates are too restrictive. I’d like to “Follow” individuals as well as their new Follow Company feature.

      Look forward to your comments on LinkedIn.

      Wendy Blomseth

    13. avatar
      Susan Baird says:

      Great post, Dan, though I think it depends on your definition of marketing. Facebook and Twitter have always been difficult arenas for small businesses to advertise products and services, because the culture frowns on being pitched. However, for building relationships and personal connections to a small business that can develop into fierce loyalty to the culture and persona of the business rather than simply its products, I think Facebook still has great potential, as you point out at the end of your post.

      Still, I enthusiastically agree with these points you made:

      1. Tops News vs. Most Recent negates the promise of viral spread of news and updates that initially drew small businesses (and others) to the Pages. Unless Facebook changes, then it’s our responsibility to continually educate our fan base to always choose “Most Recent” each time the visit Facebook.

      2. Social media isn’t free, and it isn’t “the answer.” It’s a great tool that can connect in ways other tools can’t, but for all of the reasons you cited (especially the lack of control of the platforms), it shouldn’t be the lone basket for all your eggs.

      Thanks again for a great discussion starter!

    14. avatar
      Stacy Reeves says:

      Not necessarily true. Facebook isn’t for everyone, but it is completely invaluable for my industry. I’m a wedding photographer, and I upload photos from every session to Facebook and tag all the people in them and include a link to my website in the caption. Those photos then appear not only on the Facebook pages of the people in the images, but they show up in the News Feeds of all their friends. Within minutes I start getting countless “likes” and comments on the images, I start seeing my clients’ pages fill up with Wall Posts from their friends raving about how amazing the photos are, and a massive influx of hits to my site. Many times I get a sales inquiry from one of their engaged friends within an hour or two of posting the images. It’s incredibly easy, and incredibly rewarding. Now I don’t even need Word of Mouth from my clients, because Facebook does it for me! It’s also amazing for advertising because of how targeted you can get, but that’s probably a different conversation.

      I can see where you would discourage a business from promoting their Facebook page over their website, but I don’t think you’re necessarily right. It’s extremely difficult to retain loyalty to a business website (especially one without a blog) – more than likely they’ll visit the site only when they’re looking for information on a purchase they’ve already decided to make, which isn’t that useful. A Facebook page, on the other hand, requires far less loyalty. With a click of a “Like” button, you have immediate and regular access to your customers on your terms, not on theirs. You can contact them when *you* have something to say, either through wall posts or private messages or status updates or content sharing, instead of waiting for them to come to you. Is it going to have the same kind of reach as your business website will? Well, that depends on your website traffic. But it’s far more likely to convert inert customers into active ones than a blog or website will, and at the end of the day, that’s where the real profit is.

    15. avatar
      FaceItPages says:

      Dan – Thought provoking post! I agree wholeheartedly that people should invest the majority of their marketing efforts on their own website or blog… still don’t understand why people/brands send potential customers primarily to their Facebook Page or Twitter page instead of their own site (but I’m open to hearing examples of how/why this has worked). But still, I do see great marketing value in having a Facebook Page as one component of your overall marketing plan.

      As you mentioned, 175 million users per day log in to Facebook, and recent data from Facebook cites 20 million people connecting with Fan Pages every day (see http://www.box.net/shared/9e5jiyl843). If you are a brand, company, blogger, freelancer, or entrepreneur, FB is where many of your potential customers are “hanging out”, and they trust the endorsements of their friends. People engage on Facebook in so many different ways, not just via their news feed, so I don’t believe that is the only place that your marketing message can be seen on Facebook. Even still, if your friend “likes” a Page, that action shows up on their wall and in your news feed, so a Page’s message can reach people even if indirectly.

      I think your research and statistics on this topic are top-notch, and definitely give us a lot to think about. I’m reluctant to agree, however, that Facebook is dead as a marketing platform. Many of the other applications you suggest (brand awareness, networking, creating buzz, etc.) also enhance marketing efforts.

      A key takeaway here for me is that you shouldn’t rely solely on Facebook (or any other social platform) to carry your marketing message, and that is a great point. Thanks for a great read Dan.

    16. avatar

      This is the best Facebook Post I have read ever from a Marketing standpoint. It has great information and the facts are very true and are spoken from one who has spent a lot of time on Facebook.

      Thanks Again!

    17. avatar
      Jeff says:

      Hi Dan, yes I use Facebook and have gotten some feedback, but I’m not sure about merely promoting my web site. How’s that done anyway? I’m just a small business owner with a coaching business, how can I compete with simply marketing my web site. I somewhat understand the issues with Facebook, especially the fact that things change so quickly, but what’s a poor small time marketer to do? Thanks for the eye opener. Peace!

    18. avatar
      Mark Anthony says:

      Nice post ,this article helps me to understand more about on what social media really is ..Thanks for posting !

    5 Pings/Trackbacks for "R.I.P Facebook as a Marketing Platform"
    1. […] As you can see, Facebook isn't a great marketing platform. I'm not sure why advertisers are promoting their Facebook and Twitter pages instead of their websites. It would be much wiser to invest in a blog as a landing page instead of … Thanks for keeping the debate alive with the RIP theme around social media as marketing platforms – it makes a veteran object strenuously with their own expert opinion and it gives newbies a more balanced view of this ever-evolving world. … Personal Branding Blog – Dan Schawbel – http://www.personalbrandingblog.com/ Go to Source […]

    2. […] R.I.P Facebook as a Marketing Platform Published: May 24, 2010 Source: Personal Branding Blog – Dan Schawbel Last Monday, I wrote about how Twitter isn’t a marketing platform anymore and suddenly the web was buzzing. I’ve been blogging since 2006 and I’ve never seen this strong of reaction on my… […]

    3. […] came across Dan Schawbel’s post RI.P Facebook as a Marketing Platform. Dan makes an interesting point when he says: I’m not sure why advertisers are promoting their […]

    4. […] “RIP Facebook as a Marketing Platform“. Personal branding expert Dan Schawbel warns advertisers against promoting Facebook pages […]

    5. […] came across Dan Schawbel’s post RI.P Facebook as a Marketing Platform. Dan makes an interesting point when he says: I’m not sure why advertisers are promoting their […]

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