Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Facebook FanPages Make You Lazy

Facebook is easy.

With one click people can show that they are a "Fan" of you, your business, your brand. That click allows their friends to see that they are a Fan of you, your business, your brand.

Facebook is too easy.

"That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only which gives everything its value." said Thomas Paine. And he was exactly right. Something given freely becomes a trifle, something fought for becomes a treasure. People are like that. We only value what we have strived - or paid - for.

Facebook Fan pages are easy to set up. They are easy to advertise and they are easy to join. If you already have a nice-sized following elsewhere, many of those people will be glad to click that button and Fan you on Facebook. Why not? It's easy...and it doesn't mean a darn thing. As I wrote in an essay for my other blog, there are only two real measurements of commitment, and therefore value - Time or Money. Facebook removes the strain of either from your audience leaving you with...what?

Take a look at the businesses you've become a Fan of on Facebook. How many of them have actual conversations with someone from the company? Chances are that many of the posts on the wall are news from the company (with some percentage of folks who "like" those) and the few and far between comments, mostly composed of "Fans" talking to one another.

A Facebook Fanpage encourages lazy, one-way, no-committment communications on the company's side, and no involvement at all on the "Fan's" side. The organization posts an article and Fans "like" it...or not.

Worse is when your Wall becomes a complaints board. It's unlikely that you have the plans or the resources to handle every complaint your see on the Wall, so the natural tendency is to either limit it to one-way communications, so the Wall becomes that tried-and-true press release service or close it altogether, so your Fan Page is now nothing more than an ad.

The ease of setup and use is actually a significant barrier to engagement - there's hardly any opt-in for your audience; just a single button click and then hiding that page is just as easy, effectively creating a dead mailing list with valueless numbers of "Fans.".

The other problem is that corporate communications are actually quite difficult on Facebook. It was designed to be about an individual. For a company, that presents multiple problems. It's not as cute as it sounds to create a mascot and have them update the status. Most small companies have very little to share and almost no exciting topics to talk about. Mid-size to large companies really can' talk about themselves, since "themselves" is a multitude of various people doing various things. What's left? Publicly released news.

Even on a topic that people have interest in, it takes a lot to move people to communicate about their interest on the page itself. Conversations on Mailing Lists, Forums and other communities may be lively, but the Facebook Fanpage will be moribund - because it's too easy.

When crafting your Social Media Strategy, be mindful that Facebook is the bottom of the river - water has fallen elsewhere, from Twitter, from your website, your other communities, and it's likely to settle into a calm pool of "likes" and "shares" on Facebook. Plan for the occasional ripple, and plan to offer something unique for your Facebook fans to stimulate them into action. Or, get used to a quiet page full of overexcited company hype and press releases that your Fans "like."
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