Confession time - I have been a Facebook user since September 2006. That makes me a geriatric old-timer as these things go.
Watching Facebook go from an insignificant little upstart to an industry-dominating juggernaut has been fascinating, as has watching something as inherently geeky as Internet social networking become an accepted and normal part of life and business. Facebook has become an integral part of how many companies, including some of my clients, portray themselves to the world.
I don't always think that's a good idea.
Facebook isn't your friend. Facebook is an advertising company that makes money by selling the information you give to it.
Your own website at your own domain should be your company's home on the Internet, not a page at Facebook.com. Your company name, the names of your products, and the keywords associated with them should drive visitors to your own site, not to Facebook.com.
At your own site you have control of the visitor experience and the visitor's perception of your brand. Colours and fonts chosen by your design team, words written by your copywriting team, pictures taken by your photographers, in a layout created to serve your company's desired ends. By directing web visitors to Facebook you are reinforcing the Facebook brand and generating revenue for Facebook's advertising partners, not your business.
When you post content on Facebook it's out of your control. If your Facebook account is closed, or hacked, or if access to Facebook is blocked (perhaps by a corporate IT policy) then your content is gone from the Internet. You control your website - Facebook controls Facebook.
Not convinced? How about this: when you add content to your Facebook page, you are giving Facebook and Facebook's partners permission to use that content however they like. Text, images, video, the lot. Remember this in the Terms and Conditions? "You grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook". Do you really want to upload all your photos, logos, and videos - your company's IP - to Facebook after reading that?
Yes, Facebook can be an important way for partners and customers to keep in touch with your business. But don't make it the only way to do so.
I know of one organisation who has nearly 2000 people on its customer database and 150 "friends" on Facebook - and Facebook gets all the attention come marketing time. Because Facebook is so hot right now. I don't know about you, but ignoring two thousand paying customers in order to put a notification on the Facebook pages of 150 people who may never spend a dollar with the company seems pretty silly to me!
I know of another business, one with a strong historical customer focus, that stopped updating the "Upcoming Events" page on its own website sometime last year because it was cooler to use the events functionality within Facebook. That business was getting about 3000 unique visitors a month to its own website and has less than 200 "friends" on Facebook. Does it make more sense to update the customer's own site or the Facebook page? I know where I'd spend my content marketing resources.
But... but... it's Facebook!
Reality check: when you are given a service for free on the Internet, the product being sold is you.
Social networking should be part of your marketing mix. but it shouldn't define your marketing efforts.
Use Facebook as a tool to attract new customers to your business - don't make Facebook the face of your business.
So have I just blown my online cred? Feel free to leave a comment!
-- Simon @simongarlick