A new report from Constant Contact claims that 37% of small organisations who said they were using Facebook as a marketing tool don’t think it has helped them at all. No sales, no exposure, no extra traffic through the doors. And it’s not really surprising.
As a digital media trainer, the look of shock on trainees’ faces whenever I mention that I don’t think Facebook is that helpful in engaging new audiences never ceases to amuse me. Amongst the gasps and confused stares, someone always blurts out “then what are we here for?!” which is an understandable question. We constantly hear about how Facebook should be your number one tool for capturing new audiences, how it is a place to showcase the brilliant work you’re doing.
But that’s simply not true.
Recently I led a session training some very big-name organisations in using digital tools for corporate responsibility and this point came up again. While I’m sure some people in the room disagreed with me, I put forward that Facebook doesn’t offer you the tools to find and engage new audiences. You can’t search for topics that people are talking about. You can’t message people as an organisation. You definitely can’t drop in on interesting conversations to encourage users to talk about you or your services. You can’t even see the details of people that have Liked your page on Facebook anymore.
But you can with Twitter. The simple fact is that Twitter is a far superior tool for engaging audiences which is why it is seeing ever-growing engagement while engagement on Facebook seems to be stalling. You can search for topics that people are talking about. You can drop in on conversations and engage people that didn’t know you existed.
Facebook seems to finally have worked out what it’s trying to do. Early users will remember when it was a requirement that status updates began with “Joe Blogs is…”. Since the verb was removed in late 2007, we’ve seen Facebook focus more and more on what Joe Bloggs was doing. It’s no longer about what’s happening now; all Facebook cares about is what has already happened. We only need to look at Timeline – which was introduced earlier this year with an invitation to “tell your life story” – to see that Facebook is becoming somewhere to reminisce rather than reveal. The death of Facebook Places, which allowed users to tell their friends where they were at any given moment, is another sign of a shift in focus.
Digital marketing and community engagement is all about the here and now which is why Facebook marketing just isn’t working for the smaller businesses in Constant Contact’s report. It’s a great tool for talking to people who have chosen to connect with you but again, this goes back to something that has already happened. Chances are, these users are established customers so it’s no wonder these organisations aren’t seeing jumps in revenue; they’re preaching to the choir.
If they really want to grab the attention of new audiences, these companies will have to look elsewhere. Twitter is where people are talking about what’s happening now, what they’re interested and what they’re going to do in the future. These are the people that can be engaged and these are the people that you can entice through your doors.
We need to stop selling Facebook as the be-all and end-all of digital marketing. It’s a great tool - especially for established, high-profile brands - but it’s not going to give you the amazing results so many organisations are expecting.