Right now, perhaps the biggest “new job” in online media is the social media manager, and similarly the social media management company. Agencies all over are scrambling to create social media divisions and every major brand out there has been equally hurried to hire “experts” to assist them in this new empire of social media. All those “new media” and “affiliate marketing” experts have now become “social media” experts in order to get jobs. The pundits are constantly talking about how they engage users on Facebook, how to use it to engage clients and make new clients, how to get people to click on “like,” and so on. I honestly believe that most of this talk is not only self-serving nonsense that is created to fill the plethora of junk journals out there, but more importantly has no basis in reality. Most Facebook “social” marketing has little or no return on investment.
- Most people are using Facebook as a communications device between themselves, friends, colleagues, and family. Facebook works because it’s an easy way to get in touch with people you know. It’s great because you don’t have to remember someone’s e-mail address, you don’t have to remember someone’s birthday, and you don’t really have to care all that much for the people to show interest in them. People relate to others on Facebook at the most superficial levels, and that’s partially why people love Facebook.
- The actual engagement ratio is close to 0 percent. Here is non-scientific-based proof: I’m a member of the Starbucks group, as are 20 million other caffeine and scone addicts. On a daily basis, some 1,000 people leave short messages on Starbucks’ websites, with things like “I love you Starbucks” and “My Café Latte tasted like cat pee.” That’s approximately a .005 percent engagement ratio. The people who respond to these posts with “likes” and other actions are usually close to few or none. People aren’t involved with the Starbucks’ fan page, even though on a daily basis a large percent of them are involved with Starbucks. However, the “real” posts where there is actual feedback and involvement is close to zero.
- In the cases where there is engagement, there is no way to engage the users back. I’m one of the 9 million or so people who “like” the Britney Spears Facebook page. When Britney (I love you Britney!) or her manager uses Facebook to communicate, they receive at least one to two thousand responses back. There is no way they can process those comments in a way that is actually useful to them. It’s like monitoring teenage girls’ cell phone habits and trying to decode what they are saying. Half of it they’ll forget the next day, similar to comments on Facebook, so who really cares?
- There are too many groups on Facebook to be truly engaged. Facebook has become the flea market of online media. While everyone once in a while loves going to a flea market, no one would enjoy living in the middle of one. While in real life you can meet a group of friends, sit down for a drink, and talk about subjects that everyone likes, doing this on Facebook is like trying to have that same conversation in the middle of a rave. You’re going to try for a few minutes to have a real conversation until someone slaps you with a glow stick and gives you a hug (or “poke”). Everyone who joins Facebook at first joins the groups, “likes” all their favorite brands, and tries to engage, but eventually just starts to ignore the cornucopia of pages and groups.
- Facebook advertising, on the other hand, provides real and immediate results in comparison. If you want to spend money on Facebook, buy an advertisement. With the growing amount of targeting features, the enormous audience buying advertisements and sending to your own landing page seems like a much better spend. Instead of having to worry about all the management issues with having a fan page or group on Facebook, you can send people to a site that you control.
I’m not going to say that there’s no reason to have a page or group on Facebook – that recommendation would be silly indeed. It’s free advertising. However, I am saying that having a “social media” plan with a panel of experts advising you on what the page should look like, 10 full-time employees looking at the comments, and also paying some analytics company $250,000 to give you reporting on how many people responded to your “we are not open on President’s Day” message is just plain ridiculous. Please, I beg of you, don’t waste your money on these “experts” who have about as much experience in media as I have in swimsuit competitions. Most companies don’t pay people to monitor the graffiti in the boy’s bathroom, and much of Facebook is similar to that. It has little or no real-world impact on sales or brand perception. If you disagree with what I am saying, feel free to post it on your Facebook page, and I’ll “like” it.