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The Changing Face of Marketing on Facebook
by Anita Brady Fri, 07/27/2012 - 09:23
Facebook may not yet be in dire straits, but with every weekly news cycle since their initial public offering on the stock market in May, the Menlo Park, California-based social media giant has to be praying for some good news.
In mid-July, the company's stock dipped back below $30, leaving it about a quarter off of its peak value on its first day of trading. The dip had founder Mark Zuckerberg making headlines for slipping off the list of the world's richest 40 people (poor guy, right?).
The really alarming news, however, may be a study by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which left Facebook fourth from the bottom of a list of 230 businesses in the survey, and dead last among e-businesses. Among social media sites, that means Facebook lost out to Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Facebook is caught in a bit of a catch-22. Now that they've gone public, shouldering the burden of showing a regular profit to shareholders, they're forced to create and enlist new revenue streams. Most of these are derived from marketing. When Facebook announced that it would begin testing search-based ads on July 19, the stock immediately enjoyed a small spike. Investors want more marketing, while many users would likely be happy with none.
In that way, non-business Facebook users and profit-driven shareholders may already be at odds. If Facebook feels more and more like a marketing platform than a tool to share information with friends, non-business users will begin to migrate to alternatives like Path and Pinterest.
There's already a backlash underway, but the people killing their Facebook accounts now are not quitting to join other social networks. They're just signing off. But that will change. Among Facebook's most questionable marketing decisions is the advent of paid posts. Business pages can already pay a small fee to make their posts last longer and be more visible on users' news feeds. If this becomes ubiquitous, will it sour the sharing experience?
Whether your business has been advertising on Facebook already or is just getting started, it's important to recognize the changing climate. Follow these simple rules and you're likely to get the best possible results out of your Facebook marketing campaign:
- Don't Duplicate Your Website or Blog
Whereas looking at a website is a one-sided information gathering experience, Facebook is a back-and-forth social discourse. Let's say you own a shoe store: Put up a post about "20% off this week" and you may get one or two comments. Try a post that asks whether or not anyone has ever accidentally worn high heels to a beach wedding and you're likely to get lots of fun posts, with customers engaging back and forth. You can leave a comment about your sale in the thread, but leave the direct marketing and product pitching to your website.
- It's About the Conversation
Echoing the point made in rule number one, the whole purpose of marketing on Facebook is to engage with customers. If you have a marketing employee who handles your social media, make sure that their job doesn't end when they publish the initial post. You're building relationships; that requires thoughtful and quick responses to comments left by your followers.
- Don't Post for the Sake of Posting
It's fairly common for a company to require their social media person to post a certain number of tweets or Facebook status updates each day. But this could actually be detrimental to your number of active followers. If there's simply nothing new to say, just stay silent. You want every post on your page to be thoughtful and conversation-starting.
- There's A Lot You Can Do For Free
Facebook still makes plenty of money with paid sidebar advertising, but these took a blow to their perceived value when General Motors pulled out of their $10 million contract a week before the IPO, citing a slow click-rate and an even more dismal number of purchases following the clicks. Sidebar ads still have their place, but a quality status update that generates 50 comments will actually be far more valuable. And if it's important, you can always pay to highlight that post in your followers' news feeds.
Of course, once each business page on Facebook starts highlighting everything, it could turn users' news feeds into a jumble of marketing pitches. When that happens, if Facebook fails to maintain the quality of the user experience and their customer satisfaction rating continues to drop, just be ready to amp up your marketing on the next fast-growing social media alternative that arises.