Is Facebook still worth it? Business edition

facebook-for-businessI just wrote a blog post on why I’m over Facebook on a personal level. But beyond my own objections to the platform, I also don’t think it provides much added value to brands anymore.

There was a time (about 8+ years ago) when opening a social network as a brand was a daring thing to do. Then it became a must have, “you’re not on social media yet”?! Occasionally I deliver social media crisis trainings to companies (part of my role as Firebell champion for Weber Shandwick). One of the things we say is: if you want to control your (potential) crisis, you need to be where it’s happening i.e. on social.

And at some point perhaps 3-4 years ago that was true. You had to be crazy to be a brand/company and not be on social media. It was top of your “to-do” list to make sure your company had profiles and that you had a good community manager. 

To some extent that’s still true, and  from a crisis perspective I agree it’s good to be where conversations are happening. But does that mean you have to be on every social network available to have a conversation? No.

When it comes to Facebook, I really feel that its value as a social network has decreased for brands. And as a social media expert, I’m not sure I would recommend my clients open a Facebook page now.

When Facebook started Pages in 2009, you could “become a fan” of a page. Organic growth was actually a thing! You would like a page to say something about yourself, it was a great way for people to be in touch with brands on a more human, down to earth level. This was the type of benefit I would list in the past as a company was considering opening a page.

Finally, brands could talk to consumers without having to be overly formal – gone were traditional methods of communication and advertising. Social media was the place to engage & build communities. Companies and brands were more accessible than they ever had been, all thanks to social media. And that’s what drew me to social media as a tool for business in the first place! For brands and consumers it was the same – a new platform that didn’t (yet) feel like direct advertising.

But nowadays Facebook is a far cry from what it used to be, as are company/brand pages and the relationship consumers have with them. In a bid to increase revenue, Facebook (as well as other social media platforms) introduced advertising and it all went downhill from there!

Little by little, advertising became common practice, until slowly it became the *only* way to reach consumers. Originally paid helped “boost” posts and get more eyeballs on your content. If you had a contest and wanted to get a lot of entries, it seemed like a good idea, right? But as Facebook’s algorithm and news feed changed, so did the rules for brands.

Nowadays organic reach, engagement, page likes… are a thing of the past. But beyond that, Facebook is rarely a place where you build community between brands & consumers anymore. Don’t get me wrong, communities and pages do still successfully exist. But are they related to products, brands, or big companies? Not so sure…

Nowadays Facebook is 100% an advertising platform. If you needed any confirmation of that, all you need to do is read the countless number of articles talking about how digital ad spend is on the rise. Or think about the number of job ads you see for paid media experts.

As a social media professional, over the past 5 years the demand for paid media knowledge and expertise has increased. Today, we would never build a social media strategy without a paid component. And while brands invest a lot in paid media campaigns, they may also be getting fed up with it. Take for example Mark Pritchard’s speech in early January.

Opening a Facebook page is a costly affair. Notwithstanding the large budgets you have to invest in paid (after investing in your content), you also have to consider the cost of your community manager, that of looking after your page carefully (high quality customer service and responsiveness are expected), and permanent content creation that can stand out in the slew of cute cats and babies in people’s news feeds. Good luck with that!

If you’re a company looking to build community or more meaningful relationships with your consumers, or even if you want to bring them added value – I’m not sure Facebook would be my first point of call. Think about it, do you really need that Facebook page?

 

 

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