Lately, I’ve seen a few businesses trying to get their presence on Facebook, such as Delete 10 Facebook friends, get a free Whopper. That didn’t turn out well of course. The Facebook team shut down the app shortly after (which was the perfect thing to do.) That makes me wonder if Facebook is the new place for marketing and business competition.
I think not every business, and most business, won’t succeed via the Facebook route. Or Myspace and other social networks for that matter. Successful marketing are all about context. These social networks are places to connect people. They are for friends keeping in touch and sharing life stories. It’s not a television or a mailbox where companies can just throw money to interrupt or spam.
Would I be interested in buying Designer Glasses while browsing photos my best friend just uploaded? Not likely. Advertisements need to be relevant. Again, relevance has to everything to do with the right context. And what is the context of Facebook? “Friends”, “Relationship”, “Sharing”. I do not want to think about whether I should work out when learning that Joe and Brenda just ‘ended their relationship’.
Some might argue that Facebook can aggregate data from users to make the ad stickier and more relevant. However, Facebook has become more than just a virtual classmate database! It’s impossible to guess what the users are looking for. I can be checking out Janet’s photo gallery, curious about what Adam has been up to, or looking for that new friend I just met at a community event.
Would you like to be interrupted at family dinners? Well, Facebook to me, is like a virtual family dinner. Everybody tells everyone else about how their day went, what happened, how they felt. We complain, we complement, we plan, set dates, and gossip. And that is the worst time to interrupt the conversations.
How about company profiles/pages? Have we forgotten what Facebook was meant for at the first place? It’s a face book! Why would I want to befriend with some lifeless, fake profit-seeking corporate mascots? Sure there are some PR values in this strategy. But everyone knows these profile pages are filled with ‘good things’, promotional materials. Wouldn’t it be better to get your name on some charitable events and do some real good rather than trying to woo people to buy more of your products just because you can be a virtual friend?
For one thing, it’s hard to meet strangers on Facebook. Unless you’re a complete mess, you wouldn’t want anyone you don’t know checking out you and your friend’s pictures at some ‘invitation-only’ parties. The two people have to be friends in real life to establish the trust to be Facebook friends. Even if I were a fan of McDonald’s on Facebook, would I be eating there more often? No. I don’t eat there because of the health concerns for diet’s sake!
I’m not saying every business will fail on Facebook. If you have a remarkable product with high perceived value, a Facebook fan page creates a pride, an exclusive association from the loyalists to the company. And that’s perfect. I’m happy to be a fan of Barack Obama (this has become a brand by the way) and/or Apple. But I will not be fan with every product I use, like bathroom papers or toothpaste, etc.
There are places for everything. Facebook isn’t the solution to all. So please, don’t try to get me to sacrifice my virtual friends for some free whoppers.