Some thoughts about Facebook

Since its founding by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004, Facebook (FB) has quickly grown to become the world’s most used social website. At first it was mostly used by people to connect with friends and family. However, as the volume of traffic swelled massively, many businesses came to see it as an ideal promotional tool. Let’s see how things have developed.

Why I didn’t like Facebook

It seemed as though some people were obsessed with it. They told the world about everything that was happening in their lives, and it all seemed a bit boring to those who weren’t their closest friends or family. I never really got into it.

Several people seemed to assume that because they were FB addicts, everyone else was too. We had a FB account for our business, which we checked once a week or so, yet people were posting on there to say “Happy Birthday” or “Meet me at 8pm tonight”. There’s nothing wrong with doing that if the person you’re sending messages to is constantly on FB, but I wasn’t so I guess I missed out on a lot of things.

Then, when FB became more popular for business promotions, it seemed to be frequently used by people with bricks-and-mortar businesses who didn’t know anything about websites. Typically they would have a one-page website built for them with their business contact details and the call to action of “Visit my Facebook page”. I guess that made things a lot easier for them, but there are pitfalls in doing business online that way.

Using Facebook to promote your business

I’m very sceptical of anything that claims to offer you something free to “make it easy” for you. There is always a price to pay. We’ve seen this happen countless times before where domain registrars and web hosting companies suck in newbies with promises of making things easier. If you register a domain, the registrar will immediately try to upsell you hosting. Some hosting companies offer a “free” domain if you buy their hosting package. There’s always a catch. But I’ve digressed…

The “catch” which I always saw with using FB to promote your business is that you are putting your time and effort into a third party’s website, over which you have no control. They could go bust tomorrow. They could change the rules tomorrow. And there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. Then, perhaps you might need to reconsider promoting your business online on a website you own and have some control over.

Another aspect of promoting your business on FB is that you need to consider who your audience is. If you accept that most FB users are there to communicate and connect with friends and family, then it begs the question, “Is it an audience of buyers?”

Changing the playing field

Facebook became massive and naturally they wanted to monetise this traffic somehow. The New York Times has an interesting article about how recent changes FB made to their news feeds drew criticism. Here’s a couple of quotes about one disgruntled businessman:

One of those e-mails came from a small father-and-son Web-based motorcycle company in Florida, BikersPost. The company said it had built most of its business around Facebook, but was now unable to reach its fans. Although Facebook is asking public figures to pay $7 per post to reach their subscribers, BikersPost says it is sometimes being told to pay as much [as] $7,500 to reach the core of its subscribers and their friends…

…“I have spent well over $50,000 with Facebook acquiring those fans, and now I’m being told I have to pay Facebook again to reach them…”

Facebook advertising works on a similar model to Google AdWords – pay per click, per impression, per share, etc. Thus the price of advertising can be bid up. And the more other people are willing to pay to compete in the same market as you, then the more you will have to pay. If you are unwilling to pay, then you’ve effectively been priced out of the market by your competitors, until or unless the price drops again to a lower equilibrium.

Some people say that advertising on FB is not a viable strategy in the long term anyway, although it can be useful to give an initial boost to a start-up. More viable in the longer term is to create content that people really want to share. But the jury is still out about whether or not this traffic converts. Maybe it depends on what niche you’re in as well as how you use FB to promote your offerings. As is the case with most things, building traffic is easy enough. It’s building traffic which converts that’s more difficult.

Is Facebook on the decline?

There is some evidence to suggest that FB is on the decline, with many people deciding to take a break from it.

[Of those taking a break] The largest group (21%) said that their “Facebook vacation” was a result of being too busy with other demands or not having time to spend on the site. Others pointed toward a general lack of interest in the site itself (10% mentioned this in one way or another), an absence of compelling content (10%), excessive gossip or “drama” from their friends (9%), or concerns that they were spending too much time on the site and needed to take a break (8%).
(http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Coming-and-going-on-facebook.aspx)

In any case, with 1 billion members (as of 4 October last year) one wonders if the saturation point has already been reached. How much growth potential is still left for social media websites? Twitter has 200 million, and Pinterest has 48 million. Does anyone remember MySpace? Perhaps, like everything else in the world, these behemoths will die off because of a change in their environment. And the Internet is the most rapidly changing environment of all. Their only hope for survival will be to adapt and revamp to appeal to the next generation of Internet users.

 

Are you a keen Facebook user? Do you use it to communicate with friends and family or to promote your business? Please comment below.

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