Why You Shouldn’t Send Your Traffic to Facebook

BilalJaffery
Bilal Jaffery Senior Director, Digital and Social , Extreme Networks

Posted on September 13th 2011

Seasoned Digital Strategists (folks who have been in the online space for a long time, not just social) realize the value of having traffic come to the site as opposed to sending it out there. In a business environment, we spend millions in creating and developing custom web experiences that resonate with our audience — and then we send them off to our Facebook page. Why?

Why not drive them over to your site? In my past life, as Global Marketing Leader at IBM’s DeveloperWorks, we realized the value of social media and created experiences that bridged external and on-domain experience. We learned that our own domain can be as capitivating and social as any external social network. But it needed us to shift our marketing mindset to embrace social holistically. From advocacy programs to how we communicated our message. Frankly, the brand needed to become less about the brand and more about the community it served. It wasn’t easy. But we did win the Forrester award for being the best in Social B2B space in supporting our community — on our own domain.

This allows us to serve community no matter if Twitter, Google+ or Facebook go away or morph into another network.

Copyblogger’s Sonia Simone has called it out.

Digital sharecropping is a term coined by Nicholas Carr to describe a peculiar phenomenon of Web 2.0.

One of the fundamental economic characteristics of Web 2.0 is the distribution of production into the hands of the many and the concentration of the economic rewards into the hands of the few.

In other words, anyone can create content on sites like Facebook, but that content effectively belongs to Facebook. The more content we create for free, the more valuable Facebook becomes. We do the work, they reap the profit. Same story with Twitter, Xing and other networks.

The term sharecropping refers to the farming practices common after the U.S. Civil War, but it’s essentially the same thing as feudalism. A big landholder allows individual farmers to work their land, and takes most of the profits generated from the crops.

The landlord has all the control. If he decides to get rid of you, you lose your livelihood. If he decides to raise his fees, you go a little hungrier. You do all the work and the landlord gets most of the profit, leaving you a pittance to eke out a living on.

Let’s think about that for a second.

BilalJaffery

Bilal Jaffery

Senior Director, Digital and Social , Extreme Networks

Bilal is Senior Director, Digital at Extreme Networks. An award-winning industry recognized strategist with a 10 year track record in successful digital transformation of top tier brands like IBM and Bell and Extreme Networks. Led IBM's Digital, Social Media and Community Strategy to save $100m/year. Led Bell's first ever enterprise digital and social strategy to support B2B and B2C units across Marketing, Support, PR, Brand, Web & Corporate Strategy functions. 

Some of the work has been recognized as industry's best practices by Forrester, CRMNews, Forbes, AOL, Fast Company, Mashable, SocialMediaToday, Web 2.0 Expo, CIO Forum & in academia by U of Toronto, U of Sydney, & City U of NY. 

A mentor to the startup space, having led his own in the late 90s. Bilal can be contacted via twitter @BilalJaffery or his blog at EarnedWeb.com.

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Comments

I have to say I absolutely agree with you. A good friend of mine always says 'don't aim to own the racehorse, aim to own the racecourse'.

Over time there might be more reason to just use Web 2.0 as a syndication service but ultimately being able to build your own sellable asset - such as your website, is far more important.

Why talk sharecropping? The model outlined could be just as easily describe simple capitalism.

I agree that Facebook, Twitter and the rest should be the breadcrumbs leading readers to the company website rather than the other way round.

 

 

Bilal good points, well made. Every social media marketing campaign worth its salt should aim to create a funnel effect leading online visitors to a specific website. I covered pretty much the same issue when I examined whether there was a worrying trend of social media making website obsolete.

For business purposes: Facebook and Twitter are resources for connecting to new potential consumers. Connecting, converting and building loyal consumers.

These platforms offer ways for the community to spread information far beyond the capacity of the typical company website.

Things have changed. Leverage social media platforms to learn about your brand, to garner the mood of your customer base, react quickly and genuinely.

Greet the consumer at the door and let them in.

It's not about giving Facebook something. Go where your customers are and interact to build genuine relationships. 

Use social media as a communication channel. 

 

Simply put, there's no reason to forfeit your destiny to some other website entity. Depending on Facebook, Twitter, etc. is like depending on Google and then being "victimized" when they tweak their algorithm. The focus should be on building and strengthening your iproperty, not just latching your wagon to them. Furthermore, the Like and the Follow are highly overrated. They're just numbers. The key is understanding motivations and increasing "conversions" in a way that impresses The Guest, as well as furthering the brand.Stacking up Likes might not do anything for the brand and the bottom line. Think quality, not quantity.

I'd like to add a special note for SMBs - just because you see a Fortune 500 and/or competitor do X, doesn't mean X is the right thing to do. Stop and think, what are the expectations of your Guests? How can you meet those expectations? There are plenty doing X just because they saw someone else do it. Who actually saw someone else do it. And so on...And so on...

Facebook and Twitter might be shut down one day, and with it, your presence on each platform.  It's insane how much money people spend on landing pages for their Facebook profile.  Your fans will rarely see your actual profile because you no longer need to go to someone's wall to interact with them.  It's all through newsfeeds now.

Your web presence is made up of a bunch of tools:  Your website, social presence, etc.  The only one you will ever actually own is your website.

Glad you brought this up Bilal.  

I have to agree with you 100%... and I think that social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and the rest are great for B2C marketing - or a communicaiton channel where you can talk and listen to your customers, but in the long run - it's better to establish great content in your homebase ( website ) as anything can happen to third-party sites and you don't want to lose what you have build up in time.  At least, with your website, you have total control of what you share, other than total ownership of course.

I totally agree with your comments about these sites using sharecropping principles which is why we always drill into clients they first add content to their own website/blog and then syndicate it out to the social sites, which in turn drives interested people back to the main domain and the client asset.

I think it's amazing that more businesses build Facebook fan pages now than websites, they consider them assets and even pour thousands of dollars into building something that belongs to another person. In fact your fan page might just be making Facebook more money than you via ad impressions...

There is a big opportunity to reward individuals for participation, more so than just make money off their profile views. http://keithbrown.com/has-mark-zuckerberg-cut-you-a-check-yet/ Has Mark Zuckerberg cut you a check yet for the many hours you've spend on this website making him money?

Chris Baccus of ATT shared this with me. I have been saying this for almost 2 years Bilal. Brand websites are rich with opportunity. I tell clients use Facebook and Twitter to drive traffic to your website not the other way around. Plus you own everything on your website. Why do you want Facebook having access to your customers, your data, your business?

 

Great post thank you!

Thank you for the wonderful discussion. It's about ROI at the end of the day. Is the relationship being built over a 3rd party network sustainable in the long run? (Or is it affected by how Facebook changes their policy). Why not bring it home?

I'm actively monitoring the discussion on twitter, here and on my blog at http://www.bilal.ca/why-you-shouldnt-send-your-traffic-to-facebook/

Bilal, totally agree with you.

What is interesting is, how many organizations are willing to hand over the benefit of their content, their audience, and their audiences content (UGC) to facebook etc., rather than creating an environment that becomes the hub of all activity - which is then promoted/shared out to all the social networks.

This doesn't mean that organizations (we call all of them "publishers") should not be on facebook et all. It just means that the core of content activity (yours and your audience's/community's) should be on your own site(s). That will also contribute to the organic growth of your audience.

My other concern is that content has a fleeting existence at best on facebook. There is a serendipity to the experience (same as on twitter) that maybe desirable under certain circumstances (more instant, news type content) - but does not contribute to long tail engagement. 

Thanks for apporaching this subject.

 

Hi Bilal,

This is so true! We should be adding content and building up our own businesses online, instead of someone elses. As you say they reap the benefits.

Regards

Catherine

I am not sure what to say mate, you certainly have the point, but if you aren't connecting and reaching out to people, you aren't going to get social media traffic.

It is about the connections and the engagement. But then you bring into your domain. It is not about the quick fixes. I recall a discussion at a meetup where someone had spent, hold your breath, more than 200K on a single Facebook Page through an agency.

They could've easily optmized their spend on their site and still be able to 'engage'. Poor strategy and lack of experience and standards are rampant in our industry.

 

Have a look at this entry on SocialMediaToday.com - http://socialmediatoday.com/bilaljaffery/270810/best-social-media-strate...

How a seasoned strategist looks at business outcomes in every social interaction. Value vs just 'busy activity'.

Valid point. And let's not forget we are building on someone else's platform - whatever we do can be decimated on the whim of Facebook or other social media platform. Important to seek a balance between social media activity and own site's activity. 

Love this post Bilal. Also want to point out that by sharing this on the favorite feeds (twitter and facebook) we are only adding to the issue you have raised.

Irony = win.

Interesting viewpoint but Im not sure I agree. Data says that consumers are moving away from websites and spending the majority of their time on social sites. http://bit.ly/pAz5zR. You just cant get consumers off social sites. They can do most everything they want there…cultivate their image, share w/ friends, research products, play games and buy products.  They aren’t turning to branded websites for product info. They don’t trust us.  They are turning towards peers for recommendations on products-which are in social.  Brands need to go OUT to consumers and reach them in social where they live and interact. That’s why leading brands are using their SM sites as the primary CTA now, even in mass.  Even if a company’s website is community-centric…I don’t know/trust that community so engagement will be low.  In other words, if Im considering buying a dell laptop, Im not going to go to Dell’s community site. Im going to go to my own network of friends for a recommendation. If there is a compelling reason, you can bring consumers back to your site for a deeper engagement but brands need to initiate discussions in social.

This is absolutely the truth Jonathan.  Social breeds the need to find truth and word of mouth referrals.  You can't live without it and isn't going away any time soon.  Keep your content in your files without giving them away to fb, but don't ignore posting and sharing to the almighty facebook platform.  I see on the horizon that facebook will have it's own browser and people will flock to it's internal hub. Just as many did for google with search.

IMO, when you do business locally and people connect through your network, you're easier to find and to be trusted.  I personally land 80% of my accounts from word of mouth or referrals based on facebook.  If people searched for my business on the web, they would have to look through many competitors (on google) to get to me.  Why should I have to wait for google's system to rank me (ex. websites with a longer presence history and years of domain registry rank higher than I will and I've only existed for 3 years- how do I compete with that?) and to kiss google's arse through their meticulious criteria? Instead, I can reach directly out to my network and have business today by effectively engaging and sharing valuable social strategies and value?

Killer fact you presented: "Visitors spent 53.5 billion minutes on Facebook in May, compared to just 12.5 billion minutes on Google (not YouTube)" 

Why waste your time looking for business when the majority aren't there?

Dear Bilal,

You are very right and we are always very busy what is absolute trend and give most of our energy latest trends like social media but it is very vital that our real customers both potential or customers get the information from company sites which we should focus in. Social media is kind of tool in whole marketing area. Not the single one.

Well said.

I preach the idea of starting with content - great, relevant, engaging content.  Then make decisions about where to market the content. If you start with the idea that you're creating content for Facebook or LinkedIn or any other third-party site, you will tend to create with the visualization in your mind of what will work best on that site.

So create, then repurpose, then apply. We need to think of ourselves as Content Managers - not Social Media participants.  Some content might make a great direct mail piece, or an email newsletter, or a handout for a face to face netorking meeting. Perhaps the content will make a great video, or perhaps a webcast or podcast.  

It will ALWAYS be included on my own website. As you indicated, this is the hub of what you own.  No one is going to change the rules except you.

I see a lot of "group think" in the comments above.

How is this headline any different than suggesting, "why you shouldn't publish ads in the USA Today or on CNN etc." The traditional media has historically made gazillions of dollars on the backs of these same corporations via advertizing revenue. Should they not have directed their traffic to the traditional media where customers would have seen ads for a host of other products and services? Facebook has simply come up with a better business model for engaging and marketing to consumers. And they are being rewarded for doing so.

Certainly, if a corporation has already invested heavily in its internal systems for engaging consumers and building relationships with them, then it may not make sense to begin lowering returns on that investment in the internal technology and capabilities by sending their internal traffic elsewhere. Who would disagree with that?

But for corporations whose relationship marketing technology capabilities suck, it means they aren't getting a good return on such investments anyway and perhaps it could very well make sense to "outsource" this "service" to Mr. Zuckerberg. And surely, for some small businesses who have zero capabilities it may make complete sense to redirect the what little traffic they do get.

The key is no only absolute ROI, but relative ROI of the alterantives as well. Thus, while some would say that the ROIs on Social Media (e.g. Facebook) may be low in the case of some businesses, it could be even lower if they attempted to do it internally. If the absolute ROI of either is negative, then neither should be done. But at the same time it may be viable for some small businesses to completely eschew a website and simply opt for a Facebook+Blog+Twitter+etc strategy (that is effectively developed). effectively, they would have outsourced their entire web-strategy to Social Media. What's wrong with that if the result is better and cheaper than building a internal web platform.

The blanket statement made in this article appears to make it sound as if it cannot ever possibly be a reasonable strategy for ANYONE to direct their traffic to Facebook. Such absolute statements usually always prove false. It smells very much like corporate IT types defending their domain!

Angelo