Facebook is a Waste of Time for 99.9% of Businesses

A little bit of knowledge is a very dangerous thing… especially in business.

With Facebook recently passing the 700 million worldwide user mark and basically two-thirds of all US online consumers counted as a part of this hoard, most business leaders have been scrambling for a couple of years to leverage this incredible base for financial gain. The problem for these business leaders is they don’t understand the first thing about social media… and they’ll be the first to admit that.

Most small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners and, frankly, C-level executives at large corporations are likely among the one-third of US online consumers without a personal Facebook account. They’re too busy, too old or too smart to have created one that they actually manage for themselves.

Of course, with about three quarters of a billion worldwide users and everyone shouting that businesses absolutely must have a Facebook presence, SMB owners and other business leaders feel in their hearts that they should do something… anything.

Enter the Consultants

The explosion of Social Media has brought with it an explosion of companies and consultants hell bent on helping businesses leverage social media… without regard to whether a business should even care about Facebook. A year ago, I wrote a column for Digital Dealer Magazine introducing what I called the Continuum of Social Media Engagement for Business (with the cool acronym C-SMEB) that details (for car dealers in this instance) what types of businesses should expect to interact in meaningful ways via social media with their raving fans.

The argument I made in that article – one that I still support today – is that the frequency of engagement is so low for some businesses (like car dealers and real estate brokers), that it is irrational to think they should be heavy players in social media engagement. (Leveraging social media as a conduit for managing contests or to spread coupons is fine, but low-frequency-of-engagement businesses should not expect to drive any real ROI from their customer interactions via social media.)

The bottom line for car dealers, and really 99.9% of all businesses, is that consumers don’t want to interact with you socially because there is nothing in it for them. For those of you really good at math, this means 1 in every 1,000 businesses might get some return on their investment of time, energy and money (none of which is infinite) that they spend toward social media interactions, but the other 999 should stick to proven and more traditional avenues for driving business.

Of course, none of this stops the consultants from descending on your business with their idiotic opinions and worthless (or worse) advice on how you should change everything about how you reach consumers, because “… if Facebook was a planet it would be the second most populous planet in our solar system!”


What is the Goal of your Business?

If you answered anything other than “make money for the owners,” then stop reading, because you either work for the government, run a non-profit, or you don’t understand what capitalism means. Regardless, you are not going to be swayed by my arguments here, as they apply to businesses trying to increase their customer base, revenue and profits via their marketing activities.

Clearly because it helps them secure high-dollar contracts from unsuspecting business owners, the vast majority of social media consultants lay truly asinine “measurements” on your lap and expect you to buy-in 100%. The most idiotic I’ve heard is “ROE” (Return On Engagement), which is supposed to give businesses a good feeling about what it is Facebook, FourSquare and others are delivering for them. The “return” in this case is not increases in revenues or profits, but rather increases in alleged Facebook “Likes” and Twitter followers. (I write “alleged” because no one really knows if anyone is actually reading the banal crap most consultant-aided businesses are posting or tweeting.)

One consultant recently wrote that a “great” measurement for ROE was a company’s “share of conversation” over their competitors. Hmm, I don’t think any businesses can really translate “share of conversation” to “share of market,” so this has little application in a true for-profit business. (Additionally, just because consumers are talking about you does not mean it’s a good thing. For example, I imagine that Rep. Anthony Weiner’s current “share of conversation” is greater than all other Congressmen combined, but that doesn’t make it a good thing.)

Bad advice that keeps getting repeated over and over to every industry…

Please don’t feed me the line of bullshit that businesses need to “truly engage their followers if they wish to blah, blah, blah.” People do not become your raving fans after “Liking” you on Facebook. They are fans in real life first, then they might also “Like” you on Facebook. (In other words, Facebook has nothing to do with making someone a raving fan – this is now and always has been your job.)

I’ve personally witnessed companies spending thousands of dollars and dozens of man-hours every month to perfect their Facebook image or grow their alleged fan base, yet completely ignore their free listings in Google Places, Yahoo! Local and Bing Local (which drive much more traffic to retail businesses than virtually anything else online – and these are totally free).

What’s worse is when businesses do post something on Facebook it’s usually a message like: “Happy Friday, what are your weekend plans?” Of course, these get no response, though that’s no surprise. These types of Facebook posts by businesses – such as the Chevrolet Dealer who posted this one – are downright embarrassing, and the self-titled “Social Media Experts” who encourage this waste of time are incompetent or worse.

It’s actually a little sad, because these businesses just don’t know any better; they’re only doing what their social media consultant is telling them. (Like the dunderhead who recently wrote that car dealers should post “2-3 times per day” on Facebook! Was this person serious? Is there any consumer out there who wants to get 2-3 messages each day in their Facebook news feed from some car dealer? I don’t know about you, but this sounds a lot like SPAM to me; and I just cannot imagine anyone wanting to read the drivel that might be delivered via this over-posting.)

So, how do you know if you’re the 1 or one of the 999? Hint: If your brand or business wasn’t being discussed nostalgically on message boards or enthusiast websites prior to the launch of Facebook, then be ready to run lots of contests and giveaways (which, could easily be run via email or your own website with equal success), because the consuming public doesn’t want to socialize with you. You’re just not that interesting.