It is a common conversation topic in businesses and marketing departments across the world: Facebook. The social network has become the creme de creme of marketing plans, business seminars, college courses, and entrepreneurs. There are thousands (perhaps millions) of articles written about Facebook each week - some claiming it has changed the way they do business, others saying it has been a flop and a waste of money. Behind it all is one simple idea: marketing. It is a key piece many have seemed to forgotten as they make their way into the exciting, confusing, and heated world of Facebook. It is also something I like to call "the Facebook Problem."
Today, Facebook offers businesses several ways to market themselves. The first option is to create a Facebook page about their business and use it to blast out brand messaging via posts to users who like their page. This is an option that many businesses have chosen and has become the talking point across all professionals. The second option is to run paid advertising via Facebook ads. These ads can drive on-site (to generate likes for the business' Facebook page or engagement with prior page posts) or off-site (to drive traffic to a webpage off of Facebook). Looking at it this way, the opportunities on Facebook are rather black and white, though each one offers a complex set of opportunities and strategic implications. It is one site online (with a tremendous amount of traffic) brands can use in their marketing plans. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. This is where the Facebook Problem comes into play.
Integrated Marketing Communications
The main part of the Facebook Problem is that brands have forgotten about integrated marketing communications. Marketers are guilty here. For years, we tried getting brands to accept Facebook as a marketing tool. Now, brands are adamant to use Facebook as the center of their marketing plans. In fact, some place all of their marketing efforts on Facebook- allocating huge portions of their marketing budgets to the site, spending long nights managing their Facebook pages, and generating a seamlessly endless supply of content for posts. The issue here is Facebook is one marketing channel. In fact, it's one part of a very large marketing channel: social media, and an even smaller part of another channel: digital media. Brands are beginning to forget this and placing all too much emphasis on one site.
Facebook is a great marketing tool, but it still needs to be supported by other outlets. It isn't the only place a business' audience can be found. Consumers are on news sites, reading forums, downloading music, driving to work, reading magazines, and walking by city benches- just to name a few. Beginning to neglect these outlets means missed opportunities. Marketing channels tie into one another and reinforce marketing messages. Consumers need to be touched across multiple marketing channels. They need to see similar brand messaging and campaigns across these outlets. Doing so helps increase brand recognition, favorability, and sales.
Even businesses who do integrate their marketing forget that marketing performance on one outlet can be impacted by another. Did you see a huge increase in Facebook page views? It might have been due to something you are doing on Twitter, or even an event you sponsored. Instead of looking at the entire marketing plan, businesses will often times attribute this to a Facebook post they made that day. Brands need to get over this tunnel-vision view of marketing and once again expand their understanding of the complex interplay between marketing channels. Facebook isn't the place to be. It is a place to be.
Facebook is full of content and becoming increasingly clouded with posts by brands. Many businesses think they can just post away and pray consumers see these posts and engage with them. This isn't the case. As more and more brands blast out these posts and buy paid advertising, the actual value of the message decreases. Users become blinded to brand posts and simply pass over them. This means it is even more important for brands to integrate their messaging into other outlets to increase the likelihood users will notice the posts. Additionally, some brands over post to the point users unlike their Facebook pages or hide their updates. This is the exact opposite of what the brand was hoping to do.
Addiction to Numbers
Brands have made things complicated for themselves. They have become addicted to numbers. How many page likes do I have? How much engagement did my post have? Why did like percentage drop 10% last week? Why are my page views down 15% from yesterday? Through offerings by Facebook and countless startups, brands suddenly have a million metrics at their fingertips to look at daily, and have become obsessed. Do other forms of marketing offer these types of numbers? No.
Marketing always needs to be tied to end numbers- why spend on marketing if you aren't really seeing an increase in sales or brand recognition from it? However, these numbers have given brands marketing amnesia. Take them with a grain of salt and focus on the bigger picture. They are wonderful to look at and learn from, but in the end, look at overall results. Did a three-week holiday push on Facebook grow engagement 25%? Great. Try not to worry that on 12/22 at 1opm your engagement dropped 10%. There are too many factors that may have impacted this; Facebook is just one small piece of the pie. There will be ups and downs for any type of messaging. This advice is especially important for smaller businesses who are not spending millions of dollars within a week on Facebook.
Neglecting the Message or Creative
Closely related to addiction with numbers, brands have forgotten that marketing results on a marketing channel are only as good as the marketing message. You could be on the marketing channel where your entire audience is and completely miss the mark all because of promoting the wrong message. Many businesses launch a marketing effort (such as a promotion, sale, or campaign) and blame "performance" on Facebook. They will ask "why is nobody taking up our offer?" or "why is our engagement down for this campaign?" They expect to hear that they are doing something wrong on Facebook - posting at the wrong time, posting the wrong number of times, or not getting enough exposure on Facebook.
Perhaps, however, it is something else. It is the offer. It is the promotion. It is the campaign. All too often businesses get so focused on the small details in performance that they fail to see the bigger picture. Test your campaign. Will there be a high response to it? Are you running on other channels? Are these channels seeing low responses as well? Are these channels targeting the same audience? These are questions brands need to be asking. They cannot neglect the impact of an incorrect message.
What the Facebook Problem Means
So, what does all of this mean? Should businesses forget Facebook? Is Facebook dead? No.
To put it simply, businesses and marketers need to re-evaluate Facebook's place in their marketing plans. It is a tremendously effective tool. Brands have seen huge success from it. However, Facebook should not be the gold in all marketing plans for no reason. Smart marketing strategies still need to be developed. Businesses need to see the bigger picture in their marketing efforts. Facebook is one website, one small part of one marketing channel. Forgetting this can be detrimental. Reaching consumers across multiple marketing channels is extremely important. Repetition and consistent communication is essential. Once businesses remember this and overcome the Facebook problem, the payoff will be worth it.
(image: Facebook marketing: rethink / shutterstock)