The Buzz by Mike Schaffer - PR, Social Media, Pop Culture and Sports

Buzz, PR, Social Media, Technology

January 18, 2010

Facebook Not Included

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On Monday, I presented a social media plan to a restaurant chain my agency represents in a PR capacity.

I recommended what I thought to be a good mix of outlets and channels to reach their target market, including Facebook.

My client responded, “Why do we need Facebook?  What can it give us that our website can’t?  Why would we do it just because other businesses are doing it?”


For years now, Facebook has been a central part of every digital marketing strategy.  And the numbers back it up.  With over 350 million users, how can you avoid Facebook?

But have we reached a point of saturation on the site?  With every team, restaurant, bar, lounge, textile company, food brand, etc., having a marketing presence on there, has the clutter filled the room now?

Has the audience started to tune out the marketing message?

Interestingly, that same client from above LOVED Twitter as a way to instantly get the word out, grow the network and engage existing and potential customers.

So what do you think?  Is Facebook marketing on the way out of relevance?

  • I certainly think it's nowhere near as imaginative or creative for a small business to have a Facebook page as it was even 6 months ago. But I don't think it's near 'saturated'...yet. With the growth of Facebook, and there's nothing stagnant about that, new people are getting on everyday - new to the whole concept and new to the marketing message on there. People are still fanning pages and joining groups, Facebook stats are still on the up there too. Businesses need to ensure they are not on there to simply put out a marketing message...they need to show genuine interest in contributing to the community that is Facebook, ensure the public sees they are helping others, joining a conversation (talking to and replying to their fans) - basically sending out the hidden marketing message that says: I'm not selling to you, but I am..I'm just pretending not too :)
  • mikeschaffer
    Great comment, Lisa! I'm not 100% down on Facebook, but this conversation definitely backed up a few things I had been thinking about.

    Yes, Facebook grows every day - and will continue to do so.

    Perhaps it's about setting goals for small businesses - what's a realistic output from a Facebook presence? I don't know. I have the feeling, though, this will be a central point of discussion for a long, long time.
  • jeffespo
    Mike, I would say yes. Going along with your over-saturation comment, shying away from the biggest site might be a game changer. For example, why spend money on ads or beefing up a Twitter or video campaign? For example banging out a number of videos showing the meals being prepared or an event at the joint could be more beneficial that another fan page (how many do you check anyway?).

    You can also have specific deals that are sent via Twitter and need to be printed or shown on a mobile phone to redeem.
  • mikeschaffer
    Thanks for chiming in, Jeff! This is what I'm talking about! Be DIFFERENT without going away from the mass audience! I think I follow a hundred groups or pages, but I only really ever check the ones I moderate.

    Is it too forward-thinking to plan ahead for a life without Facebook?
  • julito77
    I think it all depends on what your are trying to campaign. I mean, you can beat Facebook's network reach and if your fan page is adding value to its fan by posting consistently, then people will notice. The bigger question is: is a brand's audience on Facebook? Do they see that place as a destination to check a brand out? If yes, then it is part of the strategy. If no, find your audience elsewhere.

    I believe that brands frustrated with social media because they think that they can post a bit and then people will come. Problem is that you need to keep publishing and adding content and staying relevant. If you can do that, then Facebook is a great vehicle.
  • mikeschaffer
    I love this comment! No matter what the medium, you need to keep the message faucet on. I heard someone say that social media is a lifestyle, not a campaign, and I fully agree with that.

    Bingo on the audience part - go where your target is! But is your target having conversations with all the competitors on Facebook? Should YOU take the conversation somewhere else instead of being one of many?
  • julito77
    That is the big question. Maybe you stand out from the pack. If you are going to work Facebook, then do something very different there that makes you stand out. It all depends if people really want you as part of their Facebook. Ah, the challenges. Thanks for the reply!
  • MattLaCasse
    I'm more surprised when an organization ISN'T on Facebook than when it is anymore. What does that say about saturation? No idea. However, I think it does speak to the fact that, at least among people I know, having a Facebook page is expected for businesses.

    The bigger question might be this: Are we seeing the beginning of the end of Facebook? Has it peaked? Is it destined for a MySpace-type drop?
  • mikeschaffer
    Thanks for commenting, Matt! So if Facebook is a respected marketing tool and you are shocked when someone is NOT on there, does that mean you consider them foolish for not being on there?

    I think the functionality of Facebook will keep it around for a long time, but, yes, it may fall far. Two years ago, Twitter was barely a player in the social media landscape...and now it is a huge communications element!
  • MattLaCasse
    Agreed about Twitter. As for what the future holds...only The Shadow knows. Unless it's The Shadow from that awful movie starring Alec Baldwin.

    I don't think it necessarily means they are foolish for not being on Facebook, but there'd better be a good reason why not. Does that make sense?
  • Exceptional marketing can and will break through the noise. Sure, Facebook pages might be saturated in usage, but what about in TYPES of usage? Facebook, as a medium, is still in it's infancy. There are strategies to be dreamed of, approaches to be tested, successes (and failures) to happen as we explore the boundaries of what Facebook pages can do.

    I'll be honest- if this is a McDonald's, it's probably a waste of time. But a local burger joint, or even small chain, could do wonders with an effective Facebook page. Successful local joints are usually successful for two main reasons- great food and great people. For most places like that, there is already a strong offline community, or following. These are the people that the owners and wait staff know the name and order of. Bring them together on Facebook, where most of them already are. Offline, they feel like this is "their" restaurant (there's a strong sense of personal identification and ownership through frequented local restaurants). Do the same thing online. Encourage them to promote the fan page to their friends. If they truly are fans of the restaurant, they'll love to because it makes them feel important and involved. Engage the community in discussions and ideas for new dishes, or specialty brews, etc. Tuesday night usually a down night for the restaurant? Send a 'FB-exclusive' message out that morning- and not something like "25% off tonight, just for you ;)". Make it something that embodies their ownership and identification with your restaurant- "Roll like a big dog tonight. Bring three of your friends and send us a message that you'll be coming in. First round of drinks on us." Obviously, these messages should be tailored to individual restaurants. That example would work for a pub, but not a white tablecloth establishment.

    Where I've seen many companies, specifically smaller, local ones, fall short in social media is translating their voice. Offline, it isn't so much of a voice but an imagery or ideal. The successfully using SM are the ones that understand how their community sees them and translates that to their online strategy. Using that existing image as your online voice will lead to customers feeling much more comfortable with engaging online because they'll recognize it. If it changes too much, though, customers may feel alienated or cheated on- like you're changing on them and you no longer represent what the customers thought you did.

    Whoa. That was long, and I could keep going. Good post.
  • mikeschaffer
    Epic comment, bud...and a great one! These are fantastic examples of effective campaigns! You are 100% right - the online and offline brand need to be the same.

    My question is this - are people truly interacting with companies on Facebook or just clicking "Become A Fan" and never coming back?
  • When someone "Fans" a page, it's lazy evangelism. It's up to the brand to translate lazy evangelists to active evangelists, however that may work for their specific clientele.
  • Justin
    My question is... why NOT use Facebook? You can set up a decent Facebook page in a half hour or less, and if they're using Twitter anyway, their tweets can automatically post to their wall with no additional effort. It adds basically no additional marketing costs. If your company can get its message out to just a few people that it wouldn't otherwise reach, it's hard for me to see a downside.
  • mikeschaffer
    Very good point - there isn't much work involved in setting up a Facebook page. However, it takes work to maintain a dynamic, frequently-updated community. The only downside is opportunity cost - is there a better way to use that time?
  • martin j.
    posting from good old europe (austria) i have to say that in pr-businesses here fb is just about to become part of communications strategies. only the big mnc's (coke, danon, nestle...) have been working intensively with web 2.0 over the past years. for the mass of industries the trend is just about to begin...

    clients ask: "what can fb do what my website can't" - and that's part of the common problem. they do not get the point of digital communication and the web 2.0 logic (yet). i am sure this will change in 2-3 years dramatically.

    @twitter: very challenging to communicate clients the merits of twitter... i think facebook is a good first step :-)
  • mikeschaffer
    Thanks for chiming in from the other side of the Atlantic! In the US, we've been bombarded with digital marketing - seemingly every company has a Facebook/MySpace/Twitter...and more!

    Facebook is a great first foray into the social media work for hesitant companies. In my experience, Twitter has gotten better results for my clients, though.

    It's interesting - a Twitter network of a few hundred seems to be more involved in a brand than a few thousand on Facebook...wonder why that is....
  • Facebook is mainstream; Twitter isn't. People who already love your brand will find you on FB; People who may come to love you will find you on Twitter. FB is just one more communications channel. It shouldn't replace your website, but augment it. If you can get someone who won't visit your site regularly or subscribe to your e-mail newsletter to become a fan on Facebook then you now have a way to communicate with them.
  • mikeschaffer
    Thanks for reading and commenting, Liana! Facebook does have exponentially more users than Twitter, definitely. Great insight - a FB page is less intrusive in someone's life than a newsletter subscription or visiting the company website on a regular basis!
  • laurenfernandez
    You can't build an audience from scratch on Facebook. Numbers or not, if its a smaller brand? You have to utilize other platforms before going ahead with it. If you're Coke, sure, make a Fan page. If you have pre-existing brand recognition, it's easy as pie. You have to build up before approaching the strategy. Is FB saturated? No, but platforms come and go. We have to be on top of things and able to back up why.
  • mikeschaffer
    Right - a Facebook page is like a big hug from the company to loyal customers and fans. :) Thanks for commenting, Lauren!!
  • I agree with much of the sentiment already posted. It can't hurt to have a Facebook Page, but like anything, if you're not committed to keeping the page fresh and almost forcing (I don't mean being annoying, but being creative) your presence there, then it won't be successful.

    In the end, Facebook can be very effective for companies, but they need to survey the landscape and determine what SM vehicles they'll be committed to diving fully into.
  • I think not, as evidenced by Coca Cola's recent decision to focus their efforts on driving traffic to their facebook page(s) and building innovative and engaging programs designed to appeal to a massive audience of existing Facebook users. As opposed to their prior tactic of creating a new digital property for every campaign, this new methodology follows the "go to your audience instead of making them come to you" strategy.

    Interestingly enough, Pepsi seems to still drink the "Microsite" Cool-Aid, but in fairness, they do rely heavily on their social media presence, as well, to support their microsites.
  • mikeschaffer
    Great case study, bud! I think a major brand can have HUGE success with Facebook, especially with a marketing/advertising campaign driving people there. Does that traffic to big-name retailers trickle down to smaller regional/local chains? Like, a rising tide raises all ships, right? So if Coke brings more people to THEIR Facebook page, would that direct more traffic to other retailers, since people are already on Facebook? I have a feeling this discussion will be around for a while...
  • You got some great feedback on this one Mike. Check out this article by @simplyzesty of a wonderful example of a small business thriving by it's only advertising avenue: a Facebook fan page -
  • mikeschaffer
    Thanks, Lisa! Yep - this seems to be a popular issue to weigh in on...and I think it will only continue to grow!
  • Meg
    It's funny that I just caught this post - A friend and I were discussing our dislike for Facebook yesterday... To be honest, I've never really been a fan of Facebook for professional purposes. I find it unnerving to see pictures of clients, co-workers and former professors in non-professional settings.

    Anyway, I think what most people love about Twitter is that, besides things like the RT option and the list function, it basically changes very little. I feel like everytime I log onto Facebook, they're alerting me to some new change. And let's be real - the general public hates change. I personally think that Facebook is very overcrowded - although I don't think it's quite saturated...yet. I believe that within a year or two, it will be completely "myspace-ized" aka so full of fan pages and ads that it will be impossible to cut through the noise - and then something better will come along for the masses.

    Of course this will start the whole vicious cycle all over again :}
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