Countless experts have suggested that Facebook can be a cost effective tool to market a business, sell a product or to promote a brand. It is very much true that little effort is required – and setting up a Facebook page is in fact far easier than building a website.
As a marketing tool it can allow users an easy way to connect with a potential audience very quickly. And that audience is truly massive.
According to the latest research from digital marketing firm Zephoria, as of June of this year there were 2.41 billion monthly active users (MAU), an 8% increase from the previous year; and 1.59 billion people on average log onto Facebook daily and could be considered daily active users (DAU). The average time spent per Facebook visit was reported to be 20 minutes, and 16 million local business pages had been created as of May 2013, a 100% increase from 8 million in June 2012.
For all of those reasons it is easy to see why Zephoria noted, “Facebook is simply too big to ignore as an on-going part of your digital marketing communications program.”
Clearly many businesses agree, as 42% of marketers reported that Facebook is critical or important to their business. Facebook – and social media in general – will likely continue to be an important part of marketing efforts, but the question will come down to how effective it is compared to the effort that goes into it.
Like To Like
One other point should also be called out from Zephoria’s study, notably: “on average, the Like and Share Buttons are viewed across almost 10 million websites daily.”
Posts on Facebook can also be liked and shared, and for years both have been seen as an indicator of the interest in said post.
There have even been serious discussions, tips and no shortage of suggestions on how users/businesses can get more likes on Facebook. “Experts” suggest creating engaging posts, posting often, using eye-catching images and being relevant.
When done correctly it is easy to get dozens, hundreds and even thousands of likes. For an individual that could be gratifying in itself, and for a business thousands of likes could be a key to success.
However, we should consider the value of a “like.”
For a business a like isn’t a sale, and while it might be rewarding that a business or brand is well liked that alone doesn’t matter if those likers aren’t actually customers. Likes don’t equate to sales, but likes also don’t even equate to engagement.
Perhaps that ability to “like” or “share” something is actually a problem. Each requires so little effort that far too much is liked, far too much is shared. It has resulted in a constant flow of information that is forgotten or passed over almost as quickly as it is shared.
Consider a business that posts a new product or event in its feed. The item may be liked hundreds or even thousands of times, which would suggest serious interest. However, it is actually akin to a “false positive” in that many who see it may have only passing interest but opt to “like” it because it is so easy to do so.
This has created a “like minded” mentality, where many people may even feel obligated to click that “like” button. For this reason in any marketing post that serves as a call to action, likes aren’t very good indicators of actual interest. Likes may not result in sales or even a click through to a website.
The problem can often be magnified as something gets more likes because of the follower mentality that social media has created. In other words, a post that has thousands of likes could get even more likes because people want to be included.
Even Facebook has seen the problem with the Like counter on the news feed and could soon hide the number.
It could be argued that a “share” would seem a far more effective gauge of actual interest, and could also spread the message, but yet still may not actually do much beyond that.
There are options to promote or “boost” a post, and to send it out to those with similar interests, but again this may just result in more likes and few sales or little engagement.
The reason is that Facebook, with its billions of users, is actually too big of a market to crack. A boosted post that goes out to 10,000 or even 100,000 is unlikely to hit the target audience effectively. Major brands could spend the money to reach the masses, as they already do via traditional advertising and marketing efforts, but for small businesses and niche brands such promotions are unlikely to have a meaningful ROI (return on investment).
“Social media killed traditional media, and has turned its gun on itself,” warned social media consultant Lon Safko, author of The Social Media Bible.
“Social media marketing doesn’t work anymore,” he added. “You can pay for the click thru, but no one clicks. They will never leave Facebook to go to your web page.”
Safko explained that social media does have its benefits and businesses – especially small and independent businesses – should have a Facebook presence. However, marketing efforts on social media should be in line with other traditional forms of marketing.
“The only conclusion is to do everything and see if anything works,” Safko noted. “If anyone says they have a secret on how to use Social Media to effectively market, they are lying.”