The Folly of Facebook For Business

As many of you know, I have been in the web design/marketing business for a long time. In that time I have seen lots of fads come and go. Remember Excite, Looksmart, Orkut and MySpace? I do. And the latest – Facebook. Don’t get me wrong, Facebook as a social media tool is amazing, and it has lots of useful applications, but lately I’m seeing more and more pure Facebook businesses and it has me scratching my head. As a social media tool, and part of your marketing arsenal, Facebook is great – but to run a business solely from it. Not so much.

Let me back track, a number of years ago I used to follow Google index updates religiously. Websites and businesses lived and died by these updates. In fact loosing your rankings put many businesses out of business. The savvy operators pretty quickly cottoned on that to rely on a third party, who you have no control over, to get customers and make money wasn’t smart. So they diversified. Also known as not putting all your eggs in one basket. I see the situation with Facebook exactly the same way.

Facebook started as a social media application that enabled people to connect and have a conversation. Over time, as usually happens online, people found ways to advertise their business and make money from it. In itself that’s fine. but remember, Facebook is a business too and so far don’t seem to have made much of a ROI. I have no doubt that at some stage they will put into place some sort of advertising fee structure and rules for commercial pages. In fact I’d bet my house on it. If Facebook is your sole means of advertising your wares where does that leave you?

Not convinced? Recently I heard of a business who managed to build over 2500 “Likers” to their Facebook page. Unfortunately they did something to annoy Facebook and their page was deactivated. All that effort and hard work. Gone. And as they had no commercial arrangement there was no one to complain too.

The point of this being – don’t rely on Facebook to build your business. Use it to engage and communicate with your customers but use it as a supplement to your website. Your website is owned by you. You control it, and you decide what can and can’t be done on it. And that can’t be taken away from you.

Think You Can Avoid The Conversation?

Think again. The epic failure of Kraft’s new iSpread 2.0 is the perfect example of the way the Internet has changed the way we communicate which in turn has changed the way we need to run and promote our businesses.

Don’t believe me? After running a nationwide competition to name their new Vegemite and cheese spread Kraft announced the new name, iSnack 2.0, on Saturday at the AFL Grand Final. The name was met with resounding horror. And so the conversation began. The Internet became abuzz with people Tweeting, blogging and even creating Facebook hate pages. People hated the name and were not afraid to say so. So much so that Kraft are now rethinking the name. Epic failure indeed.

There are some valuable lessons that can be taken from this example. In 1999 Chris Locke, Doc Searls, David Weinberger and Rick Levine wrote “The Cluetrain Manifesto”. Apart from the attention grabbing line on the cover “the end of business as usual” it’s ideas turned the idea of business on it’s head. In summary they state that customers talk and the Internet finally gives these customers a powerful medium to talk on. If businesses want to do well in the future they need to become part of this conversation. It was not a conversation they could control and one where “marketing hype” and “corporate speak” are detected with alarming speed. Not only did they need to be part of the conversation they needed to talk to their customers authentically. And they needed to listen to their customers and their conversations. If customers didn’t like the service or thought a product was crap they could speak out and thousands, if not millions of people heard.

Back to iSnack 2.0. The customer has spoken. They hate the name and they aren’t afraid to say so. And Kraft have finally listened. Not 5 days after the announcement of the name they have canned it and gone back to the drawing board. It’s a good decision and great to see that they have listened to their customers but one wonders why they didn’t start the conversation earlier. It would have saved a lot of time and money. And face.

Do We Really Value Free?

I’ve been on a bit of a de-cluttering spree recently. One of the areas I de-cluttered was my skincare and make-up. I then did some research and went and bought a whole lot of new items suitable for my (more mature) skin. Pretty much everything was ordered online and in one of the parcels I was given a gift of an eye shadow. During the checkout I was able to select from 3 colours so I picked as best I could.

All my products have arrived and I really love them all. Yes I know I’m a trite anal but I do appreciate good packaging and lovely products. In fact my husband laughs at me because I often keep product boxes. Anyway the eye shadow arrived and it’s a good brand and a nice product. But I don’t wear that colour. Ever. So it sits there. And I constantly move it as it’s in my way and I can see it’s becoming clutter. Sure it was nice of the company to give me a free gift but truly I don’t value it. It’s become a weight around my neck (ok perhaps that’s a bit dramatic but you get what I mean).

So I’ve made the decision to turf it. And it’s made me wonder how much we really do value free. After the initial excitement has worn off do we still perceive the product or service the same way? I suspect not.

It Takes Two to Make a Successful Website

I am often asked what it takes to build a successful website. Of course web design, usability, search marketing and the like are vital but the most important element is teamwork. Teamwork between the web designer and the client. If this teamwork is not there it doesn’t matter how good the site looks, or how usable it is, it probably won’t be successful.

So how do you acheive this teamwork? Start by understanding that as the client you will need to spend time on the project. Yes you are hiring a web designer to build your website but you need to be able to educate them on your business, your products and services and your site goals.

It is also important to define who has what role from the beginning. For most parts of the site it should be pretty clear but one area that crops up again and again is the website copy or text. It is vital that you and your web designer clarify this at the beginning. If it is you, the client, who will be providing this, talk to your web designer about what they expect and the format it should be in. If the web designer will be writing your copy understand that you will still need to provide them with information and some of your time so they have a foundation to work with.

I guess what I am trying to say is the more you are able to work with your web designer the more successful the outcome of your project will be. If you lack time or resources talk to them in the beginning so you can come up with a plan that will work for you both.