Facebook Isn’t the Right Fit for Every Business

Filed in Social Media by Matt McGee on May 22, 2012 8 Comments

facebook_logoYou may have seen this article already: I put my family business on Facebook. Here’s what happened.

That article, published Saturday on an Irish news site, got a fair bit of play over the weekend on Twitter and elsewhere. And for good reason: It’s an interesting story about one small business’s experience in using Facebook as a marketing channel.

But, a far as I’m concerned, the buzz was focused on the wrong thing.

Buzz: Facebook Stinks!

That seemed to be the focus of most of the discussion that I saw. This small business set up Facebook pages, and they didn’t do much. Then the business tried Facebook ads, and they performed even worse. I saw this excerpt being quoted:

So far I have spent €160. Time to look at the number of our own website visits clicked through from the Facebook pages. Result? Two! €160 quid for two clicks, each of whom looked at two site pages.

Clearly something is not right, so I decide to view the profiles of all those who clicked the ads. They hit one common spot – they were all in the UK. But they were aged from 13 to about 70, many were unemployed or in education, we even had a Muslim fundamentalist who is very concerned about things in Pakistan. Lots and lots of doting mothers with FB pages full of cutesy little life mottoes. It may well suit some types of businesses but I can say we are not among that number.

Some were using that to talk about how ineffective Facebook advertising can be, especially in light of Facebook’s generally unimpressive IPO on Friday.

The Real Story…

But, to me, the real story — and where the buzz should’ve focused — was much earlier in the article. The article begins with the author admitting that he owns a “pretty boring” B2B packaging business. The company sells boxes, bubble wrap, tape, bags and stuff like that. And then paragraph three holds the key: (emphasis mine)

Now, as an older chap of nearly 60, I am no spring chicken and readily admit that I have great difficulty in ‘getting it’. But everything I read about maximising your web presence and impact told me that SMEs must integrate and embrace social media, especially Facebook.

He put his business on Facebook because he read that SMBs have to be there.

The story here isn’t that Facebook ads are ineffective. The story isn’t that this one business owner’s experience is a symbol of how overvalued Facebook is as a publicly traded company.

The story is that Facebook isn’t the right fit for every business. I wouldn’t say that B2B companies should completely avoid Facebook, but I do think it’s more of a challenge for B2B companies — especially ones that are “pretty boring.” Generally speaking, LinkedIn would probably be a better fit for this company — it’s a business networking site that would probably allow this company to better connect with potential customers.

But the bottom line is this: when it comes to social media, you have to be where your customers are. This business learned the hard way that its customers aren’t on Facebook.

That’s the real story here.

Comments (8)

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  1. Suzanne says:

    Facebook works well for my personal branding and sole practitioner clients, which makes sense as they have to constantly maintain that connection. My corporate clients have dropped putting much into Facebook because conversion is pretty low. Since my own personal Facebook page is getting so cluttered up with “junk” or commercial posts, I find I’m going to it less and less myself. Hmmm

  2. Sean McPheat says:

    I think the jury is still out for B2B marketing on Facebook unless you can tell me otherwise?

    We use LinkedIn the most over Facebook and Twitter but I’m open to suggestions on how you can make FB work in the B2B services industry.

    All contributions greatly received!

    Sean

  3. Suzanne says:

    Hey everybody: “Why Facebook Won’t Survive the Decade” on WordTracker’s blog by Andrew Tolbert is really tough on Facebook. He makes a point on there about how the ad structure is unmonetizable, BUT he also says that stores are running their APs through FB and surely that’s how FB will make their money. Also. . . there could be some as yet undiscovered weird AP FB has up it’s sleeve . . .

  4. Suzanne says:

    Here’s that link to the Word Tracker article: http://bit.ly/Jf6FeQ

  5. I (respectfully) disagree. Saying “facebook” isn’t good for a company is like saying, “of the 900 million people on FB, there’s no one on there that would EVER want to buy my product.” COME ON PEOPLE, it’s the kind of marketing that you do, it’s not the channel.

    For example, THe company that sells boxes could have made an interesting infographic, or even an interactive data visualization that explained something interesting (yes, even boring companies can create interesting content, lol.) They could have made an infographic that shows; how much cardboard is consumed every year in the world, or how a cardboard box is made. If they wanted to be funny, they could have made a “e-card” style series that played on all the cultural references to boxes (i.e. you’re such a box…) I could literally think of 15 ideas off the top of my head.

    Anyway, once a company figures out an interesting way to use social media, they’ll benefit from it. I think the problem is that everyone tries to do a “cookie cutter” campaign, and that’s boring.

    • Matt McGee says:

      Appreciate the comment, Bryant, but I think you’re wrong to say the channel doesn’t matter.

      Yes, the kind of marketing you do is obviously important, and I’ve written about that countless times. But even if the kind of marketing you do is fantastic, it’s pointless to use a channel if your customers aren’t there.

      I gather from the URL in your comment that you do SEO. I don’t know how you use Facebook, but a lot of SEOs use it to connect with other SEOs, to share links to their SEO blog posts and comment on what’s happening in the SEO industry. They use it, essentially, like a business platform.

      That’s not how most people use Facebook. They use it to post family photos, communicate with friends near and far, share important news about their kids, pets, hometown, etc. They don’t use it as a business network.

      Sure, some of this boxing company’s potential customers might be on Facebook, but they’re probably not going to Facebook thinking … “Gee, I wonder if there any any good infographics I can find about packaging supplies.” That’s just not common Facebook activity.

      It IS a much more common activity on LinkedIn, for example, where you have an active business network of people looking for business contacts and connections. The infographic would likely be much more successful there (if the business owner is an active member of the existing LinkedIn Groups, for example).

      Channel is extremely important to marketing success. The sweet spot of marketing is finding your customers and targeting them in the place and time that they’re ready and able to become customers.

      • Wow. I just feel cool replying to Matt McGee :)

        I agree that we need to make decisions based on ROMI, and some companies might make more money off Linkedin instead of FB. I guess I am thinking of the overall marketing benefit of branding and becoming a household name. For example, people don’t go on FB saying “I want to find a good tape brand but they will post pictures of their duct tape wallets, duct tape dresses, and out-door survival kits.

        I think companies need to use social media by connecting their products with their customer’s identity and letting their customers do some of their “brand evangelizing” for them.

        ..All that being said I see your points and I agree with some of them, lol.

        -Cheers.

  6. I have to agree. I recently wrote a blog post about why Facebook is horrible for most local small businesses for many of the same reasons: FB is all about family and friends, and unless your business revolves around something “fun” OR unless your business has some sort of global appeal I think your time would be better spent on a different social media marketing channel altogether.

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