Posted March 1, 2012 9:57 am by with 3 comments

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We are constantly fed a steady diet of stories of the success of businesses on Facebook. The talk is always of how interacting with customers has garnered benefits that range from the general “warm fuzzy” feeling about the brand to the ultimate goal for most which is revenue created by that interaction.

I often wonder just how representative of the total environment those kinds of stories are. I suspect that it is lower than we even know becasue, let’s face it, the same set of “success stories” in the space are paraded around all the time including Dell, Zappos etc etc. If it was more pervasive there would be more “poster children” for the movement wouldn’t there?

Well, a study by A.T. Kearney as reported by eMarketer shows that this may be a real problem. Here’s the chart for you to consider.

Now I can imagine that many readers are saying “Well, that’s not what I do!” which is fine. This is not accusatory but rather an observation (it seems that a few people who read this blog have trouble making that distinction but I digress).

The simple fact of the matter is that social media is supposedly about the interaction. If you put up a Facebook page that is a one way communication as defined by the Kearney study below it seems you would be missing the point completely.

A page that a consumer cannot initiate a conversation on e.g. an info tab, a custom-built company tab that only pushes content one-way and a closed and company-only Facebook wall

If this is what many are doing then it begs the question what are you actually doing on Facebook? You are just putting up a free display ad and hoping that someone will respond because you caught them at the right moment. It’s an old-school application of a new-world marketing tool and it is a complete swing-and-a-miss.

Now with Facebook introducing so many ad options, will brands simply turn to advertising on the site or will they truly develop their customer interaction skills and thus the community around their brand?

Data like this really points to the crossroads that social media and, in this case Facebook in particular, is at. Could it be, the hype is far outpacing the reality? Facebook is moving forward with becoming a public company thus turning its focus on advertising. Customer interaction by brands is not what makes Facebook money. In fact, unless that interaction leads to the purchase of an ad by an advertiser Facebook is likely to be disappointed in what it is delivering. As a result, we may see product “enhancements” in the future that are not designed to increase interaction for users but rather designed to create performance for advertisers. Often these two objectives are diametrically opposed thus the potential for trouble.

What is your thoughts on this apparent gap between what we say Facebook is and how we actually use it? Is it real?

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  • MrAndrewJ

    I want to agree except that this bar graph is about the assumed top 50 brands. I think it’s worth looking at the Starbucks page (28+ million followers) and Oreo page (25+ million followers) to get a glimpse of what goes on at that level. (How many of the top 50 are celebreties anyway?)

    There are millions of followers posting hundreds or thousands of messages a day. How would the brand answer that many comments effectively? What are the risks and challenges of creating a team and crafting policies for the new team to deal with that many people? Twenty eight million followers are ready to see every mistake and contradiction. Not answering is possibly a lot safer at that level. I won’t even call it ideal, only safe.

    I completely agree that the rest of us should engage in two-way communication. I would even call it a luxury and an edge, compared to the juggernauts on Facebook.

  • Cynthia Boris

    You’ll see me mentioning this as a pet peeve in many of my posts. I don’t understand companies that don’t respond to comments. Good ones, is bad enough, but when they ignore my questions or complaints, that just makes me want to take my business elsewhere.

  • Totally agree with you Frank. Swing and a miss indeed! It’s like going to a blog without comments enabled which defeats the purpose of the channel. How many conversations have you been in when you couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Not long into the “conversation”, you are looking for an exit strategy! The value of Facebook, twitter, Google+ is engagement. You don’t have to communicate with all of your followers, but you should engage with those that are active (advocates and detractors) and have something to say. If negative feedback is ignored, that speaks volumes to the other fans/followers about your brand and its commitment to engagement. Fan/followers are great for reach and as KPIs, but brands need to remember that fans/followers can leave anytime with the click of a button. Now that Facebook and Twitter are both introducing ads into the news feed, user experience and engagement with large brands may suffer further. My advice to clients is engage advocates and addresses negative comments when appropriate.