Facebook is the new darling of social media, and increasingly I hear organizations being asked “are you on Facebook”? In the cases where the answer is yes, there is no more discussion. A negative response, however, seems always to be accompanied with a tinge of regret. If an organization isn’t on Facebook, it would seem, they’re not ‘keeping up’.
Anyone who’s been reading my blog for long knows that my favorite question is “why.” Why is it important to be on Facebook? What are you hoping to achieve by being there? Are you successful? How do you know?
As may be apparent, I don’t believe every organization needs to have a presence on Facebook. I’d much rather an organization examines their objectives and then selects the appropriate tools to get them there, rather than creating a Facebook page simply so they can check that off some “social media checklist”.
I see Facebook as being useful on two fronts: it can help with raising awareness, and increasing engagement. But simply creating a page on the site won’t guarantee this. One of my oft-used analogies is of buying a billboard: having a billboard on a rarely-travelled road isn’t effective; then you need to drive traffic to see your billboard. Setting up a page on Facebook is the same: simply being on the platform will not guarantee heightened awareness.
As for engagement, you also can’t expect that people will flock to your page and entertain themselves without some encouragement. To throw another analogy into the mix: a community center needs programming, events or at least good coffee to get people to come, and eventually it’s possible that people will attract other people. Initially, however, there must be some draw.
In some cases, organizations are afraid of this interaction on their space. They want to moderate comments or not appear too available for engagement. However, this is a social networking site, based at the core on personal interaction. If you don’t want people to interact, then perhaps Facebook isn’t really the appropriate place.
I know in some cases the sentiment is that Facebook can be used to push out information to folks on a site they’re already using. This is certainly a possible use of the site, but it’s essential that the information to be pushed out is of the type people want to see amid status updates from their friends.
I’m not necessarily a typical user, but the pages I’m a fan of are typically brands I like. I “fan” them so they show up on my profile, but I rarely visit the pages to interact with other fans. I know many friends who fan concepts or phrases simply because they like the statement:
In some cases where building awareness is a primary goal of the page, you may want to consider not creating the page with the name of your organization, but rather what it represents.
While a page can send out status updates that can show up on the fan’s news feed, the “send an update to fans” functionality relegates messages to an obscure “updates” tab within the inbox, which can often escape the notice of all but the most dedicated fan. If you’re hoping to use the status update option to get information in front of your fans, you have to try to select an appropriate time of day to try to ensure your message is seen and not buried in the stream.
Seem like a lot to think about? It is, and this is precisely the reason why establishing a presence on a social network should be thought out before executed upon. Then if it makes sense, roll out a plan to ensure you’re using the tool most effectively to reach your desired outcome. While a Facebook page doesn’t carry the same hard costs as a billboard, it still requires an investment of resources. By having a firm strategy behind your social networking presence, you will be better able to assess the success of the initiative, rather than simply considering “setting up a page” the success itself.