August 23, 2012

Facebook Is A Marketing Crutch

I believe brands are becoming far too dependent on Facebook. Not all, but enough to concern me.

Over time, companies have come to feel "safe" with Facebook. It sure feels rock solid, right? Almost a billion users can't be wrong. Something this large and successful can't fail anytime soon. Can it? Anyways, it doesn't matter. This is where the consumers are, so this is where the brands shall go.

And so the brands pour time and money into cultivating their Facebook communities. I have no problem with that. The problem is the dependency.

It becomes very easy to lose perspective. Facebook becomes the public face of the company. Interactive, media rich, and exciting. Things just work on Facebook, so full steam ahead.

It happened over a long stretch of time, but essentially this is what companies have said:

"Hey, let's stop advertising our website and only advertise our Facebook page! Oh, let's put the email list to the side - we can talk directly to fans on Facebook! Actually, since we're sending everyone to Facebook anyway, let's put off that website redesign."

And Facebook becomes a crutch. 

You don't own your fans. Facebook does.

You don't own the medium. Facebook does.

The smartest companies use Facebook as a tool. It IS an amazing tool. But I truly believe it will not last forever. At least, not at its current level of success. But it doesn't matter what I believe. What matters is that it MIGHT not last forever. And that alone should keep companies on their toes.

So keep up with your email lists and your blog communities. You own them. You can measure them. You can't lose them. You can have as much marketing data as you choose to collect. You can send any message you choose.

And for goodness sake, do something creative with your website.

Look at BMW. Their website, their US website, and their Facebook page.

BMW.com

BMW US

BMW Facebook

The BMW websites are so boring I want to cry. It's like they are having a mid-life crisis of their own. Facebook page? Bright, brilliant, photographs in every post. Millions of fans and active commenting and sharing. 

Now look at Skittles.

Skittles.com

Skittles Facebook
They have a fun webpage that speaks to their brand. It actually scrolls down indefinitely. It's creative.

Anyways, I've digressed a bit, but my point is obvious by now. Don't do everything through Facebook. You say "of course" but companies are doing it anyway. 

Especially at a time like this.

Facebook has to impress investors. Their stock has plummeted at the time of this writing. What is more likely for Facebook to do - focus on wooing advertisers or focus on happy users? 

I think users are about to get more and more fed up with the way Facebook evolves. Google+ shows just how hard it is to start a new social network. If your friends aren't there, you aren't going to switch away from Facebook. But Pinterest also shows how quickly something new and fresh can take off. 

I think we're just waiting for the right "something" to come along and give us a breath of fresh air, much like Facebook did when Myspace got too advertiser-happy. 

I don't see anything on the horizon, but when it does come it will be quick. Web companies often fall from grace over night. And if Facebook sinks, think long and hard about what you will be left with.

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