Should Businesses Be Relying on Facebook For Customers?

by Joanne Steele on November 29, 2012

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Facebook cartoonA very important and interesting blog post came to my attention today that calls into question all those classes and trainings that encourage small local business owners to jump on the Facebook bandwagon.

Is it Time for Content Marketers to Abandon Facebook? points out the reality that the average local business owner doesn’t realize as they spend most of their internet marketing time posting interesting tidbits on their Facebook Business Pages…. IT ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE!

As the article points out, Facebook controls who gets what content, and the numbers of followers (likers) of a business page have little to do with who gets to see posted content.

Facebook is a business, and although they are clear that you own the content posted on your business page, they control who gets to see it.

I wrote a post recently about Facebook’s new terms of service on the Take Control blog. If you read their Facebook Site Governance documentation carefully, you’ll see that they promise to deliver content, your personally owned content, however they feel will best serve someone else. Them first and other Facebook users next based on how Facebook perceives users’ interests.

Pay to promote your Facebook posts and you’ll do better at getting your message out, but is it worth the money?

The Copyblogger post points out the people go to Facebook for personal and social reasons, and if your business fits within the personal and social needs and wants of your likers, maybe.

Should microenterprise and rural development associations be giving Facebook trainings?

I find these classes problematic. They’re easy to organize and teach, because the subject is concise – teach business owners how to create and maintain a Facebook page and your work is done.

An organization can measure numbers of attendees and numbers of people that follow through and create a page. But there is no way to gauge the ROI of a Facebook page.

Numbers of likers? No way to know how many are actually getting the content.

Numbers of visits to the page? How many of those actually turn into customers?

Numbers of people who download a coupon or take advantage of a sales promotion? Now we’re getting somewhere, but how many small local business owners use these tactics?

When a small business owner joins a Facebook training what are they really asking for?

If we drill into the reason most small business owners attend a Facebook training class, we may find that the real need is help doing a better job of internet marketing.

Facebook seems like a quick and easy solution.

Put up a Facebook page. Stick up a post, picture or video once in a while and internet marketing is taken care of.

And when Facebook sends those posts, pictures and videos off into cyberspace, and the small local business owner gets no benefit from their efforts, they say, “Internet marketing doesn’t work.” Not, “Facebook doesn’t work.”

Here’s the dilemma for those microenterprise and rural small business development associations.

Teaching internet marketing is hard. It takes lots of training and consultant time, and the ROI for the association is hard to calculate.

Here’s my take:

If you’re a small business development association with a little training money, use it to teach business owners how to manage their reputations online first.

It’s simple to turn into a class format, easy for business owners to implement and provides an immediate metric to measure ROI.

  1. Who follows through, managing their citations and claiming their business on review sites and directories.
  2. What was their search engine placement for searches of their business type and location before starting management and checking again after 2 weeks, a month and two months (ask them to report back).

At Take Control of Your Internet Marketing, I have relegated talk about Facebook for business to the Fifth module. By then, a business owner has learned how to manage their reputation, identify their customer base, create an effective website and how to blog and use email marketing.

They are ready to make an informed decision about how to approach social media including Facebook. At this point, some will decide to forego it completely. Others will immediately see the benefits for their particular business and go on to build a robust social media presence.

So, for businesses and organizations who need help with internet marketing training, check out Take Control of Your Internet Marketing.

We provide comprehensive, effective training at a low cost to the small business owner.  It’s easy for small business owners because they can access the video lessons at home in front of their own computers. And lessons are presented in short, easy to implement segments that build the competence of the learner over time.

We can help a partner organization by providing the training their clients need, and help them gather the data they require to show funders that the partnership was worth the investment.

Let’s work together to put Facebook in it’s place, a nice social media platform that SOMETIMES has value for small local business owners.

Here are several past posts to add to the conversation:

Do Facebook Likes Mean They Love You?

What 2012 Social Media Predictions Should Small Local Businesses Heed?

Cartoon on Flickr by Urs Steiner

1 Rana Sinha December 12, 2012 at 3:06 am

Very interesting post. It seems that the issue of Facebook being effective for marketing is rather complex as we see evidence of viral marketing getting results as also many entrepreneurs claiming the opposite. Could it be that Facebook would not be a suitable media for larger enterprises, but more suitable for services that suit the nature of viral marketing?

2 Joanne Steele December 13, 2012 at 9:38 am

Hello Rana, I’m not sure that size is a concern. The question has to be, does the kind of viral activity associated with Facebook lead ultimately to more sales. And is there a good ratio of cost in time and effort to those sales. Each small business has to answer this question.

3 Nikolas Allen December 13, 2012 at 9:52 am

Rana, after reading your reply, I had to chime in to remind that the biggest viral successes of late include big-company names such as as Oreo (this year’s An Oreo A Day campaign) and Old Spice (the hilarious uber-buzz created by the Old Spice Guy), among others. Therefore, viral marketing is less about size of company creating it, and ALL about creating irresistible, share-worthy content.

4 Joanne Steele December 13, 2012 at 10:01 am

Good point, Nikolas. And again, for micro businesses the question is whether buzz leads to sales. Big companies have staff who do nothing but generate that irresistible content. Micro businesses have to cram social media into an already overwhelming schedule, so cost/benefit has to be constantly assessed.

5 Nikolas Allen December 1, 2012 at 9:16 pm

This is a great post, Joanne. I’ve been touting my skepticism about Facebook’s status as the Holy Grail of Social Marketing for a long time. You address some very good reasons why small business should treat Facebook more like a seasoning in their marketing recipe rather than the main course.

There are so many people (consultants and authors mostly) who tout Facebook as a marketing revolution, and I prefer to think of it as a communications revolution. Is it a good place to connect and engage with your audience? Sure. Is it the only place you should be focusing your marketing efforts online? Far from it!

6 Joanne Steele December 1, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Good to hear from you, Nikolas. The key words in your comment are “connect and engage.” The goal should be to help small business owners to build a comprehensive internet marketing strategy so that all that social connection and engagement will lead to more sales.

7 Joanne Steele December 1, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Thanks Frances! I have seen your site and must say you are using Facebook to it and your full advantage. You’ve created a place where your fans come for fun and sharing, and hopefully some of that good will is turning into business! It’s good for beginners to see that it didn’t come w/o a big investment of your time.

You got it on the Saturday thing. I actually post to the blog sometime during the week and my email services sends the notice out on Saturday, hopefully when you and other readers have a little extra space in our email box.

8 frances December 1, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Aaah, thanks for daring to suggest FB may not be the one-size fits all platform for marketing. That said, my business is going to remain active on FB, at least for the immediate future. It has taken awhile (2+years) to see tangible ROI which is definitely there for us now. And interestingly we’re not seeing direct response from our own postings but from other FaceBookers sharing them – bingo!
Always enjoy your Saturday postings – keep them coming. I contintually refer tourism folks in my area to connect with them.
I was asked the other day why they come on Saturdays, which I couldn’t answer other than that I really appreciate the schedule as they don’t get lost in the weekday volumes of mail. Is that why you send Saturdays?

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