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.
Anti-social Social Media Manager
June 10, 2014 @ 6:40 PM
Holy shit, man! I thought I was the only one who felt this way. I’m a social media manager for a large dealer group, and I half of my time fending off asshole after asshole trying to sell us social media services and the other half of my time re-explaining to the people who pay me why we don’t need any of it. But social media… lots of people… tweeting… millions of people… viral video… people. Yeah, don’t need it. NO ONE GIVES A SHIT WHAT THE CAR DEALERSHIP IS POSTING TO FACEBOOK! NO ONE! Nope… not the oil change special, not the happy customer photos, not the cute cat photos, not the manufacturer generated social content, not youtube videos, none of it! And here’s why… people HATE the car dealer. They love the brand, but hate the dealer. The auto dealership’s best, most loyal customer hates the dealership the least. True story. It’s like ranking Proctologists on a scale of gentle to brutal. Either way, you’re still getting something shoved up your ass.
The only person who is insisting that you have to engage people via social media at the dealership are the people who are trying to sell you social media management services. The customers aren’t demanding it. They’re not making buying decisions because of your clever, informative, personalized, or friendly posts on Facebook. Show me one review where the customer complained that a dealership didn’t tweet often enough, or that their facebook content was too generic.
The bottom line is Social Media is like the beach, and on a hot summer’s day everyone goes to the beach. The simpletons at the marketing companies will say, “Everyone is at the beach so you have to go to the beach to sell your products. Sell where the people are! Look at this suntan lotion company.. they’re making a killing at the beach. This sunglasses company is selling 1000’s of units a day at the beach. Get your ass to the beach!” The problem is you sell carburetors. And even though there may be people in the market for carburetors at the beach, while they’re at the beach, not only are they not interested in hearing your shitty sales pitch, you’ll look stupid for even trying.
Of course you’ll hear rebuttals from the army of know-nothing marketing companies who never sold cars and who have no real world evidence of an auto dealership successfully leveraging social media for anything other than giving away iPads. But the fact of the matter is, social media is a barren wasteland for auto dealers where money-sucking scavengers charge you 2 grand a month to post TGIF images on Facebook. Like this if you’re headed to the beach this weekend.
June 10, 2014 @ 6:57 PM
June 10, 2014 @ 7:03 PM
Hah! Thank you for an entertaining and honest perspective to this madness. I wrote this post 3 years ago and the social media marketing companies keep growing and (basically) stealing from dealers. Your defense of your group’s budget is admirable!
I love every analogy you provided, but I think you really drive home the truth with this gem: “The problem is you sell carburetors. And even though there may be people in the market for carburetors at the beach, while they’re at the beach, not only are they not interested in hearing your shitty sales pitch, you’ll look stupid for even trying.”
February 12, 2012 @ 4:27 PM
Right on! I’m with you on this subject my friend. It’s like why would I want to be friends with my Bank or Insurance company? What does either of us get out of it? They spam me w/offers & I spam my friends with the same offers? Then people get mad at me & un-friend me. Then I un-friend the companies who spammed me. Hello square 1! I think Google Places/Yahoo/Bing is definitely true. I think getting good @ what you do & creating partnerships/joint ventures will go a 1,000,000 times farther than facebook or twitter. E-mail marketing still works like clockwork, & it’s secure. It doesn’t work for those who have crappy products/services, & for those that spam you as soon as you sign up.
July 7, 2011 @ 3:17 AM
Did you not read the first sentence of the second section?
“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.”
Unless you can somehow prove that users who clicked through from Facebook or Twitter were actually converted into a sale, you’ve generated exactly *squat* in the way of ROI for your clients. This “Return on Engagement”, as the author accurately points out, is bull****. In my experience, the people hanging out on Facebook and Twitter are either unmotivated young people who aren’t working yet (this includes college students), public figures in the public eye (politicians or entertainers) or low net worth losers who have nothing better to do with their time because it’s worthless anyway. I suspect that the vast majority fall into that last category.
The author is right; For 999 out of 1000 businesses, Facebook is a waste of time.
Google is FTC Target? Build a Better Mousetrap and you may get Punished
June 24, 2011 @ 12:38 PM
[…] of keeping people from leaving Facebook to do anything else on the Web? (I don’t even like Facebook that much, but they have every right to build a better mousetrap and provide additional Facebook […]
June 17, 2011 @ 11:40 AM
Okay, here is my litmus test for whether or not a business should waste time with much more than contests or giveaways on Facebook:
If you printed hats and t-shirts with the business’s name and logo, and placed these next to similar items from Nike, Budweiser and Chevrolet, would anyone buy them?
If the answer is no, then be prepared to run a lot of giveaways to get a smattering of casual fans on Facebook. You’re just not cool enough!
June 13, 2011 @ 5:36 PM
Well, three actually 🙂
1. I provide social media marketing to small business – as PART of their marketing strategy (which includes adwords, newsletters, banners, sponsorships and everything else).
2. @Chuck and @DirtySarah – Facebook has recently (as of two months ago) stopped spamming you. Only pages you INTERACT with will show up regularly on your News Feed. If it doesn’t, feel free to send me an email and I’ll explain how to change the settings back to default. And no, I won’t spam you afterwards, I just don’t have the time 🙂
3. Everyone loves to bash on Facebook, but no one bashed other forms of “classical” marketing nearly as much. How much ROI do you get off a huge billboard? No one really knows. How much ROI does a television ad give you? No one knows (other than the fact that the Superbowl one loses companies money :)). I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be in this for the money, and I wouldn’t recommend car dealerships to be on Facebook (much), certainly not 2-3 times a day – but yes, being there gives you a good platform to generate ads off, build a community and make a name for yourself.
June 13, 2011 @ 11:54 AM
I disagree! Every business can greatly benefit from having deep interactions and engaging their fans via social media marketing. As one of the consultants you denegrate in your article, I take offense that I don’t bring value through ROE measurements. Some of my clients have thousands more fans on FB and followers on Twitter than their closest competition. And they post and tweet dozens of times each day, creating exciting, provacative and engaging conversations with their fans.
June 13, 2011 @ 11:56 AM
Name one client and we’ll let the readers of this blog be the judge about the ROI you are providing. (Remember, employees cannot feed their families on ROE.)
June 13, 2011 @ 11:32 AM
Facebook is for people, not businesses. While it’s okay for my friends to see what I like on my profile (like Grey Goose Vodka or Coach Bags), it’s not okay for either of these companies to spam the shit out of me.
Plus, why in the hell would I want to like a Chevy dealer? Seriously, they are probably great people, but what does that tell my friends about me and what value could the dealer expect to receive from this?
Attention businesses: Let me like you, but then leave me the f*** alone!
June 13, 2011 @ 11:28 AM
There is nothing worse in the Facebook world than liking a company only to have the company take this as a license to spam you. I’ve never become a “raving fan” of a company after liking them, but I have been turned off by many of them (and stopped being a fan of theirs in real life) because of their constant barrage of BS in my news feed.
Stop it! I don’t want to “follow” the local gas station on Twitter and I don’t want to “like” the Facebook page of the company who kills my weeds!
Thank you for speaking the truth!