We support our clients in the use of Facebook as it is a very popular platform that can help build a larger customer base, increase sales and improve customer engagement and service. However, we do not recommend that they use it as their only Internet presence.
Some of our clients, such as Treasured Times Rubber Stamps & Scrapbooking with 158 likes, use Facebook to promote specific products and events and to share how their customers are using their products. However, these product-based business-to-consumer clients still use their website as their primary sales vehicle.
Others, such as Hammond Ashley Violins with 1,175 likes and SeaTacPark.com with 1,528 likes, use Facebook in more of a customer service manner. They respond to Facebook chat questions from customers and add posts that promote events and share tips. However, they rely on their website to organize the information that people seek through search because Facebook’s Graph Search function does not allow people to find them easily without knowing their company name. This is mainly because the volume of information on a website like www.hammondashley.com (such as unique pages for each instructor) is more than can be conveniently organized in Facebook.
The main barriers to using Facebook for a business’ ONLY web presence are that:
1) Facebook controls participation and content and can ban a business from its system without giving the business an explanation of the ban or the opportunity to petition for re-inclusion. (Jennifer Martin of www.MartinCorrespondence.com, tried to set up a Facebook page for her business plus some paid advertising. Within minutes of setting up her advertising account she was informed that Facebook believed the account had been compromised and they promptly locked her out of the program indefinitely. After submitting several forms of identification over a series of days they reinstated her business page but said she could never advertise with them. They also said the decision was final. To make matters more difficult in the entire encounter, she realized that Facebook has no Contact Us solutions and only redirect you to their message boards.)
2) Facebook controls the architecture of Facebook pages and can change this architecture whenever it chooses. So even though a business can set up custom tabs and pages in Facebook, these can be suddenly rearranged beyond usability. For example, several of our clients had implemented “Fan Reveal” pages so that when people first liked a page they would receive special content (for example, a special offer). These pages worked well to get more people engaged with a business’ Facebook page, but then when Facebook implemented its new timeline layout these custom pages were broken or the tabs (navigation buttons) for these custom pages were obscured to the point that people didn’t see them. This unpredictability of architecture makes businesses reluctant to spend time/money on custom interfaces that can be broken without recourse. However, because a website remains the property of the business regardless of hosting and domain name registration, businesses are willing to customize the pages on a website and for this reason, businesses with sophisticated options (such as online sales page, shopping carts or appointment request forms) place these functions in their website rather than on Facebook.
3) Facebook’s search function is still too undeveloped. For example, search “violin shop seattle” in Facebook and see that only one result appears even though there are many violin shops in and near Seattle that have Facebook pages. This is because Facebook doesn’t include a mapping function that can show businesses near Seattle and still lacks sophistication in how it displays search results.
When we work with clients we recommend that they first develop a fully functional and optimized website and then a regular email newsletter before they engage in Facebook and other strategies. And if a business is business to business rather than business to consumer business we often recommend that they set up an optimized LinkedIn page before setting up a Facebook page because LinkedIn is more specifically set up for business to business communications than is Facebook.
How has Facebook been an effective and ineffective tool for marketing your business?