Facebook is the most popular website on the internet. So, naturally, there is plenty of bad Facebook marketing advice floating around. Some advice arises because marketers have a bad habit of reading one or two great case studies on Facebook marketing and then blindly applying the same lessons from those companies to their own brands or clients. But Facebook marketing usually doesn't work that way. Each brand is unique.
Let's examine some of the conventional Facebook wisdom you've likely heard in recent years. (You might have even heeded a few of them.) On the surface, some of these pieces of advice sound like spectacular ideas. They might have even worked for a brand or two. But if you dig a little deeper, the flawed logic becomes apparent. So let's start digging.
The advice: Your Facebook page should replace your website
Why it's bad advice
"You only need Facebook" is more likely to be recommended to smaller (and sometimes local) brands. On the surface, it sounds like a great deal all around. Facebook is free and easy enough for most of our grandmas to set up. And business owners get sick of being told that they need to be on new online platforms. From the point of view of a small business owner (who is often responsible for his or her own marketing), keeping pace with the next big thing is often not a priority. Thus, they love the idea of being able to cut one -- an expensive one, like a new website -- out of the picture and focus instead on a "free" platform like Facebook.
Decide what your audience needs and wants from your business's online presence. If you don't know, ask. If you don't know how to ask, hire a marketer who does. Here's why: You might not need Facebook at all. You might only have the resources to manage either a website or a Facebook page but not both. If your Facebook page isn't actively managed and your website is woefully out of date, you're probably better off concentrating on just one. So pick the right one.
Let's pretend that you own a snow cone stand called "They Were Cones" in the parking lot of the suburban Lone Pine Mall. Luckily, you've kept a paper email signup list on a clipboard on the edge of the counter for the past six months. A quick email survey to "The Coneheads" (your loyal fans) reveals that only three pieces of online information about "They Were Cones" are required -- location, hours, and flavors. Conclusion: Build a simple website and avoid Facebook for now. When you have more time, learn to engage through social media.
The advice: You should let your fans run your Facebook page
Why it's bad advice
Marketers and business owners sometimes follow this advice because is seems to ease the short-term strain on resources. It also falls in line with the popular -- and not altogether incorrect -- notion that brands no longer own their own brands. (The consumers own those brands.) With the wrong person at the marketing helm, a brand might be more than happy to gin up a Facebook page and then hope that fans will create content for it.
A Facebook page is like a marathon where the fans are the runners and the brand is the event organizer. As the brand, it's your job to make sure everyone has the correct information. You are also there to help fans with concerns and questions. If some jerk gets rowdy, you might have to kick that guy out. The brand is also there to give out freebies and exclusives and to engage with fans on a one-on-one basis wherever necessary.
If this sounds like a lot of work, then you probably understand social media marketing! Yay! Curating an online brand is a big responsibility. Ideally, community management (which seems to be the accepted title) is a 24/7 job -- it certainly can be if you let it. Growing a Facebook community large enough to expect fan created content is a big job. Once you get there (if you ever do), Facebook is now a large portion of your fan base with questions, concerns, and comments that will require interaction from you. If those interactions are few and rare, expect to lose fans on Facebook and elsewhere.
The advice: Don't try to sell from your Facebook page
Why it's bad advice
Avoiding sales of products and services on Facebook is widely accepted because there's a competent kernel of wisdom to it: People don't usually come to social media to consume advertising and marketing messages. This simple fact about Facebook browsing behavior has been reiterated for years by both survey data and expert opinions. For example, in May, Chris Litster, SVP at Constant Contact, said, "Remember, people go to Facebook to catch up and connect -- when they want to buy, they'll go to your website."
OK, OK, OK, yes, yes, that's true.
Then why the hell are all these brands spending so much time and money on Facebook? If Facebook isn't an effective sales tool, then is Facebook the biggest fleece ever? Well, maybe for other reasons. But in this case, no. The brands that are investing heavily in Facebook presences understand that Facebook interactions occur near the top of their sales funnels. Just like real life, as a fan interacts with a brand over time on Facebook, that fan becomes likelier to buy something from that brand. Remember, Facebook isn't a banner ad. It's customer service. So be nice.
Offer Facebook fans exclusive access or coupons or anything that gives them a one-up on anyone else. People like to feel like they're part of a secret club. Let's pretend that you run a bakery that is about to debut a brand new flavor of Cronut. Ask the Facebook community to help you develop the new flavor. Then debut it on Facebook with a special discount for fans only. And announcing regular sales and promotions is totally OK. Just don't go overboard.
For more examples, check out this Facebook Page to browse the innovative ways that brands large and small are driving sales from Facebook.
The advice: Run a giveaway to boost your "likes"
Why it's bad advice
Yes, a giveaway will probably increase your "likes," potentially by a lot. But it might also cost you a lot of money. And you will have ultimately acquired a whole lot of "fans" who aren't really fans at all.
If you hire me or another marketer like me to increase your Facebook "likes," I can totally do that. A "likes campaign" is usually pretty easy assuming that you have at least a modest marketing budget or enough product for me to give away. If you want to increase your "likes" by huge margins, that's still pretty easy, but it requires a bunch of money and whatever is being awarded to new fans, as the giveaway needs to be at least somewhat on-brand.
Here's the rub: People almost always love free stuff more than they love your brand. So they probably didn't "like" your page because you're you. They're only there for the freebies. Now it's your job to keep them there. If you built a big Facebook following by giving away off-brand stuff, expect people to hide your updates or unlike your page quickly afterward.
Create your Facebook fan acquisition strategy as a two-tiered campaign. Step one, the giveaway, gets them to "like" the page. Step two keeps them from leaving after the giveaway is over.
The advice: You must be on Facebook
Why it's bad advice
You are not the boss of me. Facebook usage is huge, so part of your audience is almost certainly on Facebook no matter what it is that your brand does. But it's possible that Facebook doesn't fit into your online marketing strategy. If you are a visual brand like food or fashion, Facebook makes sense -- but so does Instagram. Research about your audience might reveal that more potential fans are on Instagram, and those fans engage with your content more often than on Facebook.
Do your homework first before investing resources in Facebook. Yes, Facebook is gigantic, which means that most brands should manage a presence there. But it's possible that skipping Facebook in favor of other platforms social and non-social (like a brochureware website) is a more efficient way to respond to the needs of your online audience.
Drew Hubbard is a social media strategist and owner of LA Foodie.