The business case for Facebook, in one sentence

What is the most-debated question in social media today?  One candidate is, “Should my company have a Facebook page?”

The tension comes from several angles. It could be due to:

  • The company is not culturally-ready to deal with comments from real people.
  • The company has whacked-out expectations about how sales will increase once they have a Facebook page.
  • Their social media guru, Timmy from Accounting, has set their marketing strategy.
  • They are doing it because their kids told them it would be cool.

So how do you decide if a Facebook page should be a priority for your company?  Here is the business value proposition for Facebook in one sentence:

“Come waste time with me.”

Think about it.  The overwhelming reason people go to Facebook is to waste time playing Farmville, watching funny videos, or catching up on the details of friend’s lives.  Your life does not depend on Facebook.  It’s entirely incremental activity.

So, do you have a business that people want to waste their time with?  If you are Disney, the answer is probably yes.  If you are selling ball bearings to Ford Motor Company, well … probably not.

Here are examples of organizations that would be fun to waste time with:

  • Companies that provide humorous, entertaining,interactive, news-worthy, interesting, and/or educational content.
  • Beloved brands that have passionate “fans” outside of social media like Coca-Cola, BMW, universities, charities, sports teams, or the neighborhood pizza joint.
  • Brands that allow you some exclusive access, deal, discount, contest, or benefit from being on Facebook.
  • Companies that interact with you in a unique and personal way.

Now of course there are exceptions, but I think as a general rule, keeping this business case in mind will be a pretty good predictor of a company’s ability to connect with people on Facebook.

Marketing through Facebook is difficult. People go to there to AVOID your sales pitches and ads. They immerse themselves in Facebook to escape. So to the extent that you can help them do that, you will have success.

I’m not saying that even the ball bearing company couldn’t have some benefit from being on Facebook. It doesn’t really hurt anything as long as it doesn’t distract you from real value-adding work.  But when your boss is pressuring you because nobody has “liked” her civil engineering firm, you can simply challenge her by saying, “we’re a great firm, but probably not a company people want to waste their time with.”

… Unless of course you can make it that way!

What do you think?  Does this fit for you or have you had another experience?

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  • Hi Mark, 

    I agree with your statement about companies that people don’t want to spend time with. UNLESS…. they have a different approach in connecting with the community. Companies should realize from the start that it was never about them, it was the people. They should find a way to connect with the people , whether its education or a common interested that the demographic likes. I’ve seen brands use a common interested to build a community, not really for pitching. 

    Seriously, I think small businesses (like you mention in the previous post) has the upper hand for fan page because it allows to add and connect with the users as a FRIEND. (if they don’t mind privacy). 

    Recently, me and my gf started a clothing reseller business and we wanted to cut down on cost, so we thought it we would be a good idea to only use Facebook, no websites all. The first month, the page was used to build a community on fashion, the do’s and don’ts. Discussing the latest trends, colours, etc. Active communities became our friends on Facebook and later on converted into customers and returned customers. No sales pitch at all. Just conversations and trust helped us a lot. People referred to their friends and we grew from there. 

    So yes marketing is difficult in the short term but once the relationship is build, its easier. Look at threadless, they are another brand doing an amazing job. 

    Oh the page is at http://www.facebook.com/leneys (self promo you can remove this if you mind)

  • Great shout I think – “Come waste time with me” – I can use this as further example to my wife to STOP PLAYING FARMVILLE!!!! – it’s a waste….  I might recommend the new hybrid Mark-ville to her – at least its educational…

    I work in sports – where Facebook is uber-relevant – the key is finding the ‘ticks’ to really deliver for the business rather than just helping folk waste time – need to convert that time into $$ / ticket sales etc.

    If I was a ballbearing co though – I would still ensure I worked on how FB might work for me – as the social network does offer a route to customers…  And I am sure the dudes at FB are all over plans to make it more relevant for those who don’t want to waste time.

  • This is exactly the problem Mark. Companies want to use Facebook to broadcast messages about how great they are. Fans and followers don’t want that. They want cool, fun stuff and maybe even a deal or two. Proctor and Gamble does this really well. They know that people are on their Facebook page to save money, so they post items about saving money and offer deals to those who “like” the page.

    At my old job, all the bosses wanted was “likes” and only wanted to broadcast stuff constantly. I had to tell them not to post all of the time. No one wanted to waste time with us.

    Farmville is the ultimate time suck. You can lose hours playing that! Pure Genius!

  • Matthew Brooks

    Another great insight, Mark.  I think your comment that “people go to there to AVOID your sales pitches and ads” really nails the issues that anyone has to face up to when contemplating using social media to promote a business.  Aaron’s comment is an excellent review of how to do it – a good case study for anybody starting out down this path.

    Success or failure for business depends not on whether we use social media but HOW we use it.  If a business – any busines – just uses social media to plug what they offer and nothing else, then don’t expect results.  Use social media to allow people to “Come waste time with me” (I like that catch phrase) and you have some chance – even with ball bearings.

  • Mark-Ville — I like that! You nailed it. I visit FB to see what my family and friends are doing. But mixing business with pleasure on FB is a Catch 22, don’t you think? What you’re saying is, don’t spend a lot of time building a campaign there if your audience is not going to buy into it. I see too often marketing that is best served in other social media. But…..Mark-Ville!

  • Nancy, I think all bosses want “likes”. I think they have an ego to keep or wants to boast to top management, my ex boss was like that too. He didn’t want any blogs or connect with the community. Only likes and people “engaging” with them. I left before the page went live. 

    Now the page is use to post any news about the company. No engagements at all. 

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  • A long time ago, at the dawn of the www, I noticed that a local car dealership had added its web site address to its illuminated signage. I was genuinely baffled why a local business would want to have a global presence.

    Sadly I didn’t clue in that I should have run out and bought up a hundred short domain names, like coke.com or sports.com, and made a billion dollars. Clearly I was wrong about how I regarded the www.

    Last month I saw a local car wash had added

                    LIKE US
                     ON FB

    to its illuminated signage.  I wondered – Am I missing something again this time? Or have we hit some kind of a new low in how we regard such a remarkable resource as social media?

    I think your article offers some sane suggestions. Thanks Mark.

  • It was so bad Aaron that I could not take it. They didn’t want engagement either. They wanted only to broadcast and that does not work. The other really funny aside – these men were “experts” so I go out one night to get a slice of pizza and I get a frantic phone call. One of the bosses wants the “password” to the Facebook page. I explained that he needed admin status to make changes to the page, not a password.

    Expert my foot! I had a good laugh over that one!

  • Well done! I can’t wait to hear more about your business!

  • Hope your wife likes bunnies.

    Good points Nic. Would be interested to hear how you are monetizing. ThS for commenting!

  • Good point Nancy. I have a post coming soon about a company who is into “like” wars. You won’t believe it. Actually … You probably will. : )

  • *FAIL*

  • Thank you Matthew. I’m not so much of a purist to think that a business can’t thrive without social media. There are plenty of companies thriving without FB! : ) thanks for contributing your views today!

  • MarkVillle. Come for the bunnies. Stay for the blog.

    Who knows? It may catch on. May be a hare raising new venture.

  • I think we will look back on “Like us on Facebook” like we look back on 8 track tapes. Ten years from now, we’ll be wondering… What was THAT all about?

    Glad to see I’m still on your blog reading list Michael!

  • The internet has made it easier to judge how successful your various (and generally many) different marketing efforts are.  It has also meant that budgets are under more pressure to perform (as they should).

    Over in UK (my prior home) – it is early days – and success seems to be all about ‘likes’ (irrelevant unless monetized).  Some clubs are on the right track – good example below – whilst in US – you guys are further along the path.  There are some good ideas just bubbling to the surface now that will reshape sports marketing over the next few years – the race to the “global fan” is on!!! 

    Man City’s approach to Social Media – http://www.linkedin.com/news?viewArticle=&articleID=808560630&gid=2901731&type=member&item=73291096&articleURL=http%3A%2F%2Ftinyurl%2Ecom%2F6kfu9e9&urlhash=aWYo&goback=%2Egde_2901731_member_73291096

  • Great share. Thanks!

  • DAMN I LOVE THIS. The smartest thing on Facebook “marketing” I’ve ever read. Seriously.

  • Yup! Agree. I’ve found it works with college students because they’d rather visit a page than do homework. 

    In the last month 33% of my site traffic has come from Twitter. 2 % from Facebook. Even G+ sends more than Facebook. 

    Maybe it’s time to kill the business facebook page.

  • Absolutely brilliant, and 100% true.

  • We wait all week for posts of that quality : straight, simple and so damn true. Worth showing to all those SMEs CEO who want a facebook page at all cost. Thank you so much.

  • As ExactTarget said in their Facebook X Factor whitepaper, Facebook fans want to be entertained (for the most part, there can be other reasons depending on fans and the page). I like how you phrase it — come waste time with me — clear and direct, and encapsulating Facebook perfectly for the average user.

  • This is exactly why I haven’t gone the Facebook route, yet. I’ve actually put together a page for our company, but not publicized it at all. In addition to the issue of people coming there to be entertained/connect with friends, I also think that I’m likely to just get other colleagues (social media people etc.) as fans of the page rather than customers.

    Just lately, I’ve come up with a Facebook strategy that is based more on entertainment, and will probably create my FB page.

    That said, I do think there are opportunities for b2b, if you take that entertainment factor into account. I recommended to one client that they do a Facebook page but use it to answer common questions from people about their area of expertise (traffic flow and such) and to post videos showing traffic problems and why they are problems, that kind of thing. Light, fun, informative, and of mass-interest. It still benefits them by spreading their name and getting them more visibility.

  • Kim Elisa Prario

    Amen! Bless you, Mark! Best thing I’ve read on the subject yet. Great comments as well.

  • JSB

    I disagree. I connect with companies that are of interest to me and I want to be the first “in the know” when they have a new product or service, maybe a special deal or tip. For me that range is car companies and restaurants and resort hotels and tech blogs and newstand magazines and tv shows. I think your assessment might be best applied to B2B companies, but any company large or small that needs retail customers should have their presence on social media feeds. The old adage “go where the people are” couldn’t be more true when you are talking about cultivating relationships with prospective customers.

  • This is as concise as it gets. Maybe my whole target market is businesses that are fun to waste time with!

  • Love this line Mark: “we will look back on “Like us on Facebook” like we look back on 8 track tapes.” So evocative….

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  • In my niche (Real Estate), I see Agents trying really, really hard to make Facebook work for them. But like you said: “Marketing through Facebook is difficult. People go there to AVOID your sales pitches and ads.” 

    So I’m not sure consistently posting about your listings is going to be effective. Really, I’m just not convinced it’s an effective use of one’s time. I’ve only seen a handful of Agents who have been able to implement an effective strategy to attract people back to their own site’s to engage, interact and convert interested buyers. But again, Facebook in and of itself wasn’t the end destination. It’s just an outpost… A vehicle to attract attention back to the Agent’s main site. 

    Anyway, I feel like I’m ranting here. Nothing wrong with having a Facebook page. But please set proper expectations and goals. And remember: “Marketing through Facebook is difficult. People go there to AVOID your sales pitches and ads.” 🙂 

  • Agree. Realtors are among the worst mis-users of social media. They don;t get it, they don’t even try to get it. Many think Twitter is the SUnday want ads.  Thanks for fighting the good fight Ricardo.

  • Sounds like a plan!

  • I’m not sure how we disagree. These are all companies who are providing great content and “special deals.”  That is exactly what i said. : )

  • It’s a catch 22. The more you do it, the less it works. The less it works the more you do it.

  • Kind of you to say, thanks!

  • Absolutely. It is a challenge, but isn’t all great marketing a challenge?  :  )

    I suppose on B2B there is also the “be there to be there” factor.  I used to hate going to trade shows. They were a waste of time, but the company felt we would be noticed if we WEREN’T there. Maybe FB is like that too?

  • We all want to be entertained most of the time I think! : )  Thanks for your kind words Tanith!

  • Wow you made my week.  Thanks Alain-Marie! Very kind of you.

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment John!

  • Interesting stats.  I would say mine about the same.

  • Thanks for such a nice compliment Michael!

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  • Scot Duke

    Great point!  I will say a business needs to have a presence on Facebook to validate they are in fact a viable business, but should make a reality check on how much energy and resource they need to pour in their Facebook existence.  Social Networking and Social Media can be beneficial for all industries, they just need to make sure they are ..like you said..not wasting their time.

  • FB is like a business card today. Doesn’t hurt anything but it might be strange if you didn’t have one right? Thanks Scot!

  • Great perspective!

  • I can’t stop laughing about the “We love bunnies.” Aside from the helpful/challenging thoughts, that was worth the whole post. 🙂

  • This fits my company perfectly! We are a B2B manufacturer so finding an angle to compel people to “waste their time” with us has been difficult. Recently, I came up with a way to do option #3 on your list “Brands that allow you some exclusive access, deal, discount, contest, or benefit from being no Facebook”. We can let people know about upcoming deals at all the retailers we produce for a week in advance, which is something others won’t be able to do. Will see if it works!

    Great article though-I saw you speak at Social Media Masters Atlanta and really enjoy your perspective on things.

  • This fits my company perfectly! We are a B2B manufacturer so finding an angle to compel people to “waste their time” with us has been difficult. Recently, I came up with a way to do option #3 on your list “Brands that allow you some exclusive access, deal, discount, contest, or benefit from being no Facebook”. We can let people know about upcoming deals at all the retailers we produce for a week in advance, which is something others won’t be able to do. Will see if it works!

    Great article though-I saw you speak at Social Media Masters Atlanta and really enjoy your perspective on things.

  • Glad we’re connected. Thank sfor letting me know you enjoy the blog and my presentation!

  • Facebook does not have to be just about sales for B2B though.

    For example, 98% of colleges and universities have a Facebook page (source: http://www.umassd.edu/cmr/studiesandresearch/socialmediaadoptionsoars/).

    What does this mean? It means that current students, who happen to be future employees, are quite well-versed on Facebook.

    Because Facebook is a more informal social network, it could be a great place to promote a picture of your company as a great place to work with some behind-the-scenes material.

    Besides, this picture would not influence only potential recruits, but also many potential customers, as the Facebook page of a company is quite easy to find, and thus it could serve to humanize the company. So in a way, it might actually have indirect effect on sales as well, even if its main goal was recruitment.

    I’m sure there are other options as well.

    The key point: social media can be used for more than just sales.

  • Couldn’t agree more with the meat of what this article is talking about.  Brands must start looking at themselves not as product marketers, but as entertainers.  Attention span for anything is dwindling more and more as there are so many new avenues that continue to spring up and vie for our attention.  If you want to be where your “fans” are, respect why they are there and play along!

  • it will be like something from stoneage

  • Absolutely true. Very good points.

  • When I teach my classes, I talk a lot about “entertainment.”  It’s not a word typically bantered about the boardroom but is undeniably important in our information-dense society.

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  • I heard Avinash talk about Facebook in that it’s where people waste time, don’t confuse that with what higher ups in your company “think” would be good to use Facebook for.  Your success depends on it.  Facebook’s usage is really sliding and I’m from Regina Saskatchewan in Canada, not the more technologically advanced area and we’re already seeing some Facebook retreat. 

    Anyway, great post, I’m using this to explain to others what it means to actually use Facebook properly.  Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    I think this really misses part of the reason to be on Facebook: to learn.  I have gained all kinds of useful business knowledge there, information I can share with my clients to make their business communications more effective.  Trying to sell social media as a time-waster won’t get you far with most business owners and CEOs, and it’s not accurate.

  • I see your point about uing Facebook to learn from others, but I don’t understand how that would be a business case to sponsor a company FB page. You wold not have to have a company page to accomplish that goal.

    As I said, there are exceptions, and I appreciate your dissenting point of view.

  • So delighted you found this useful. Thanks for letting me know!

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  • Glad we got to connect Damjana.  Thanks for joining the comments!

  • Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!

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