I admit it. I’m old. I remember a world without Facebook. Without Twitter. Without YouTube. I witnessed the rise and fall of Napster, MySpace, and countless promising startups. I built my first website sixteen years ago and have made a full time living in entertainment and technology ever since, and I’m here to tell you, the emperor is as naked as the day is long.
We humans have a problem. We crave attention. We love to be “liked.” A retweet… a comment… a share – these are the metrics that we as marketers use to show our clients how important they are to their customers. How much the world cares about their products and services.
The truth is, even the biggest, most successful brands on Facebook are currently averaging a dismal 0.56% engagement rate on the network. That’s roughly 1 existing fan in 200 that has liked, commented or shared anything in a month on the network.
And keep in mind, those are the metrics for people who have already “liked” the brand page.
Remember the Coca Cola commercial from this year’s Super Bowl that featured God Bless America sung in multiple languages? It seemed like everyone either had an opinion about the commercial itself or about the people sharing those opinions. So there must have been a tidal wave of activity on the official Coca Cola Facebook page, right?
Wrong. Just 57,000 of Coca Cola’s 79 million “liked” the ad on the official page. 17,000 commented on it there. But you know where the real conversation occurred? Everywhere else. And you wanna know why? Because Facebook is for friends, not for brands.
Boy… that’s a lot of numbers, right? Here are some pretty pictures to bring home the point: Coca Cola’s fan following has increased by over 6 million fans in the last 6 months. There is no correlation between growth in followers and the number of people actually interacting with the brand once they do. (Here’s a second example (RedBull) from the Facebook Top 10.)
The answer is simple. It’s called Edgerank, and it is the algorithm Facebook uses to determine which status updates we see, and which ones we don’t.
The truth of the matter is, most of us visit Facebook to connect with our actual friends and family members. It’s about baby photos and birthday party pics. Facebook wants us to follow as many brands as possible because those pages act as advertising beacons. Supposedly, we can all be given a perfect blend of ads based on a specific matrix of brand preferences unique to each individual, but the truth is, we’re even less likely to click on those ads – by a factor of 10!
So why all the doom and gloom?
It’s not that Facebook is going the way of the dinosaur. It’s that too many businesses are putting too much faith in their “following,” under the pretense that they are building a true community. I assure you, they are not.
Companies are spending millions of dollars to entice people to follow their pages, and then millions more just to ensure our status updates are being seen. If those same dollars are used to build an email database and traffic to the company’s own community forums, there is a tangible, measurable return on the investment. Instead of 1 in 200 people “liking” your next status update, 1 in 100 should be buying something from your next email announcement.
If you run a business that relies on a small number of important accounts, spend your promotional dollars on iced coffee and cappuccino. Get out there and meet people. Tell your story. Shake some hands. Ask your current customers to make new introductions. If your “content marketing strategy” doesn’t result in a regular stream of new business, you’re not doing it right.
And one last thing – If you’re not yet using LinkedIn to identify and connect with new customers, this is the time to start. Unlike every other social network out there, LinkedIn is about 1-to-1 business communication. It is no more effective as a broadcast platform than Facebook or Twitter, but it’s profoundly more impactful as a real world networking utility.
I might be old, but I’m not old fashioned. Follow the numbers, track your results, and get beyond the hype. Facebook marketing is so 2013. 😉
Added Twist: Watch this video, it’s worth all 9 minutes… I promise. Next, look back at my article. It’s based on the top 10 brands on Facebook. Then ask yourself the question, “Which of these brands has paid to attract new followers on Facebook?” Answer: 100% of them. Artist pages are also not immune, even if they are not paying for followers (which many of them are), because the same “click frauders” will “like” celebrity sites for the reasons stated in that video. More research is in order on brand pages with smaller followings, but there is a gigantic (and I mean billion-dollar) problem in Facebook’s lap.
Pinky Gonzales is a technology veteran, educator and entrepreneur residing in Portland, OR. His company, Upriver Solutions, specializes in corporate communication and career development services. See more at http://www.UpriverSolutions.com