A Facebook Page (Even A Good One) Is Not The Answer

Note: The views expressed on this blog are those of mine alone and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer, past or present.

Something I have noticed, both through observation and firsthand experience, is the obsession brand marketers, as well as agencies, have with turning to Facebook to resolve their social media challenges.

Jim Carroll (Chairman, BBH London) recently weighed in on a subject he calls Wind Tunnel Marketing. The idea is that we’ve become so committed to becoming “relevant” to our customers that we’ve forgotten the importance of being different.

Oftentimes, we look to Facebook as the solution to our problems because we have all come to believe that’s where our customers are. Where I find myself at odds with marketing in Facebook isn’t so much the idea that we all think our customers might be there. That very well may be true. It’s our “drive to identify best demonstrated practice, to codify it and coach it.”

An excerpt from the Labs post really stood out to me:

Few noticed, as we learned to lean more heavily on our norms and pre-tests, that expertise and judgement were a devaluing currency.

And few noticed, at least at first, that the measures designed to raise the floor of communication output were at the same time lowering the ceiling.

I believe there’s a place for research and best practices; but there’s also a place for gut instinct and dissension. The problem with everyone measuring themselves by the same yardstick is that we end up looking and acting the same as well. I hate to break it to some, but following the common best practices aren’t the key to solving your social media woes. Having the best Facebook page within your competitive set is not the answer.

You’re preaching to the converted on your Facebook page. And I can tell you now, they aren’t fans of your page because you update it 3-5 times a week, consistently reply to users, or follow any number of other Facebook best practices. They’re fans because they have always liked your brand, and only represent a fraction of the people who do.

Turning those few fans into advocates for your brand will not come as a function of following the best practices. It will happen because you decide to do something different. Or, more appropriately, it will happen because you decide to do something worth talking about.

Everyone these days likes to point to Old Spice as a good case study. The campaign’s success online had absolutely nothing to do with its Facebook page, which happens to follow all the best practices, or its blog, which most definitely does not. Instead it had everything to do with providing content so interesting, so creative, so different, that people felt compelled to spread it through their social graph, whether they were a fan of the brand or not.

There are two ways to build advocacy. You can preach to the converted and hope they evangelize the message out; or, you can focus on new acquisition and attempt to bring people into the fold. Either way, you won’t get there by reading from the same book as everyone else. Dr. Gregory House isn’t entertaining to watch because he follows the rules. Likewise, people aren’t going to talk about your brand to their friends if you aren’t doing anything noteworthy, regardless of how much they like you.

Carrol holds that, “Wind Tunnel Marketing is turning communication into a numbers game, a game where scale of resource wins every time – whether that be media budget, distribution network or sales team. The cost efficiencies of brand differentiation are notable largely by their absence.”

If we all march to the beat of the same drum, the ones to finish line first will be those with the most money to spend. But recent history has shown that by innovating in your communications whenever possible, the necessity to buy attention becomes needless.

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