One of the first things to confront when it comes to social media marketing is that there’s a massive amount of hype associated with social media. Most marketers who have been around the block have heard it before: You need social media and nothing else, you don’t need a website anymore, and other topics I’ll probably cover in the future. Facebook is arguably at the center of all the hype and it’s easy to see why.
Facebook’s scale is immense. As of this writing it sits at over 900 million active users and completely dwarfs the other reigning social networks. Even with its stock in free fall, people are calling out the needlessly sensational claims that Facebook is dead. It’s true that many businesses can benefit tremendously from Facebook, and the success stories speak for themselves. It’s also easy to see why businesses can be taken in by the assumption that they absolutely need Facebook regardless of their industry, target audience, or endgame objectives.
However, the claim that Facebook is a “must have” runs into trouble you realize that this assumes every potential target audience – essentially everybody in the entire world – is on Facebook. As colossal as Facebook is, when you put 900 million people into context it’s still a significant minority of the global population. What if you happen to be targeting a segment of the other five billion, one hundred million-odd people in the world? All that time and effort isn’t going to generate the most qualified leads or ideal customers. At worst you’ll be spending a lot of time creating and curating content with no return.
I’m not just talking about people who live in Siberia or on the International Space Station. In the United States alone there are 160 million Facebook users. The United States is ranked number one in the world by Facebook usage per country, and that’s still just over half of the United States population. That’s nearly 150 million people you aren’t going to reach through Facebook in one of the most populous, industrialized nations in the world.
A better question to ask yourself is this: Of those 900 million people, how many of them are going to benefit your business? Are any of them current customers? How many of them are potential customers? Can you use Facebook in a way that brings leads to your page, and then turns them into customers? Say what you want about “building a community” – that community needs to be contributing to the growth of your business. I see pages with 10 fans and comments are exclusively from the business owners’ spouses and mother-in-laws. Don’t have that Facebook page.
You also have to think about the validity of Facebook for your business in the first place. Ask yourself as a business owner if people want to see your content in your newsfeed. Consumer-oriented businesses and even B2B businesses can build loyal followings based on education or entertainment, but a local plumber, independent tax professional, or solo practitioner attorney may have a harder time justifying it. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but there needs to be value in what you do for other people and you need to have a clear audience in mind that not only uses Facebook, but will be interested in you.
So before you happily announce on every piece of communication that your business is on Facebook, stop and think about how Facebook will advance your business. As huge as Facebook is, it’s a marketing tool like any other social network.