The Facebook-Small Business Dilemma
Let’s face it unless you were under a rock lately, we all have been witness to the disappointing behavior of some of the biggest names in business recently but, none have been as controversial as Facebook. With Facebook Co-founder, Chairman and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, speaking before Congress on the platform’s use of personal user data and privacy issues, many people are wondering if it is wise to any longer be a part of the Internet’s “largest community.”
For businesses, the relationship with Facebook is especially a tough decision. After all, abandoning a social media marketing avenue that reaches billions of potential customers is not in any company’s nature. So we thought that at The Mauldin Group, it might be helpful to share some of our own perspectives on four of the questions we have been fielding into Facebook’s effects on the small business owner and whether it may be time to break up.
Sharing Our Insights On A Few Facebook Questions
1. Why Do So Many Small Businesses Use Facebook to Help Market Their Companies?
Most companies have always relied on a significant element of “Word of Mouth” referrals. With the dawn of social media, we saw this element change to what is now referred to as “World of Mouth“. Meaning no longer are referrals limited to one-to-one personal conversations. A review or referral, good or bad, can now be shared with hundreds, thousands or even millions with one click.
For many years Facebook has been the primary “social community” online. Both due to its users’ numbers–1.59 BILLION monthly, and brand recognition. Naturally businesses, especially local, small businesses gravitated to the community for reviews, referrals and advertising. After all, the key here is community. To assure their company was present to be “shared” locally, as well as globally, it has become as commonplace as having a business card for companies to have a Facebook Page for their business.
A Changed View of Facebook
However of late, there have been two definite effects that are changing the view of Facebook for businesses, both large and small. First, recently Facebook made a major algorithm shift in its platform. This shift has caused companies whose content was being shared and posted to be downgraded. Premised on “getting back to the ‘social’ roots” Facebook has begun to limit how much business content appears on users’ timelines. Keep in mind that many businesses are PAYING someone to handle their Facebook marketing (posting).
The algorithm change has come under speculation as to whether it is a Facebook shift to force businesses to pay for advertising through Facebook Paid Ads OR as many suspect, a reaction to Facebook’s Data Sharing entanglement. Either way, many businesses small and large are looking at whether continuing the investment in a Facebook Business Page is truly worth the ROI.
2. If People Don’t Feel Safe, Will They Leave Facebook and Should That Concern Small Business Owners?
Again since Facebook is still a leader in the “social community”, there will more than likely be a need for businesses to keep some form of a presence on Facebook while it is active. That said it is more than likely that businesses will begin to explore alternative platforms for their social media marketing goals, such as Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
The unique problem is that Instagram is owned by Facebook and there are already rumblings within that community of changes for businesses that use that platform. Keep in mind as well, that Zuckerberg attempted to buy Snapchat five years ago. While he was not successful, he did acquire Instagram and has grown it to be what many see as the largest threat to Snapchat since its creation. So, what is to stop him from buying others in the future?
Other Social Platform Options
While Twitter is holding its own as a leader and often a better sharing choice for more global audiences, there have been some concerns of how much data collection is happening there as well. Also, keep in mind that both Twitter and Google have been called up by Congress to testify in the past. In other words, when it comes to user data and privacy issues, Facebook could be just the tip of the iceberg.
3. Will Potential Regulations Result in Businesses Having to Pay For Their Pages on Facebook?
We would not be surprised to see many, if not all social media platforms, eventually go to some sort of fee-based program for businesses. It is natural that something initially free in marketing, or on the Internet for that matter, will eventually become a paid service. That is what is often the first step in the classic membership-business model.
That said in order to charge for a Business Page, it has to be deemed valuable to the business and capable of having a good ROI. Some users are already leaving Facebook in fear of the data issue. With the problems Facebook is facing, many businesses may not feel it worth the investment; especially if they are forced to choose because other platforms decide to follow suit.
TMG NOTE…Truthfully the best and most sound investment any company can make for their business is to invest in what they actually own, their website. More qualified leads are going to come from sound SEO practices, great website design and a good PPC (Pay-Per-Click) campaign, with the most notable being Google AdWords. Remember, no matter what Google is KING!
4. What Are the Alternatives to Facebook?
There are several platforms out there but, the choice should be made according to the audience you wish to reach and goals your business wants to accomplish. For instance, again in the past almost all businesses felt the need to have a Facebook Page even if their audience was not particularly driven to Facebook. But, truth is if you wish to reach your target audience you need to “fish in their fishing hole.”
So for the time being – if you are a local, small business, where your audience swims in the Facebook realm, it’s best to stay in the pond and not totally give up your Facebook posting.
- For service-related B2B companies, you will want to definitely have a well-detailed, comprehensive LinkedIn Business Page. You will need to blog and post content that is geared more towards the B2B crowd (executives, business owners, managers, etc.)
- For global companies and anyone trying to “spread the word” on new products for B2B or B2C segments, you will want to be on Twitter. And when we say be on, that means “tweeting” frequently – up to 8 times daily. This is a really good platform for building a brand or an individual to establish oneself as an Influencer.
- For millennials, Snapchat is still a major player. Brands looking to grow in this market will need to embrace this mysterious platform.
- Instagram! Any business from retail to service related can benefit from Instagram. As an image-based platform, it is quickly overtaking other platforms for its ease of use and share-ability. The only potential drawback is it’s owned by Facebook and businesses could face future algorithm changes here as well.
- YouTube has over 1 BILLION visitors a month and is the second largest search engine after Google. Video is fast becoming the #1 choice of content with its firmly established roots; YouTube is the leader for businesses to show off their stuff. Whether it’s a corporate introduction video, a small company product video, a consultant’s “How-To” video or simply an individual seeking to build themselves as an influencer, many millionaires are being made via YouTube.
Facebook Is Still A Practical Choice
Let’s be truthful, while privacy issues, data collection and identity theft are important concerns for all Internet users, time has proven us to be a pretty forgiving crowd when it comes to the social media realm. As long as this is where communities are gathering, there will always be a need for small and large businesses to have a presence there. The key is going to be in how observant you are in your social media marketing. Businesses will need to choose their platforms wisely according to their target market-audience. Investment is going to be needed of both time and funds; paid ads are going to become even more crucial.
You will HAVE TO embrace video! Yes, it can be expensive but, the return is so much more effective. Also, with the right team driving your marketing, we can show you how to do video affordably and responsibly.
The truth is, with 1.59 BILLION users monthly, Facebook is not going anywhere, anytime soon. So as businesses, we may just have to learn to play by their rules…at least for the time being.
The Mauldin Group And Facebook Go Way Back
When it comes to digital marketing and the many services that make up this broad area, The Mauldin Group shines as a leader. Whether your need is for a team to take on your Facebook and social media marketing efforts, a new website, SEO or the mysterious Google AdWords, our dedicated team of experts can design a creative solution that delivers great results. Ready for a Free Consultation? Contact Us Now or Call Us at (678) 846-2306.