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Forget Facebook; keep your fans to yourself!

by on July 19, 2012
Last updated on
Say No to Facebook
For the last few years businesses and non-profit organizations have ridden the Facebook bandwagon. They've whole-heartedly plastered "Fan us on Facebook!" across their websites, their marketing material, their fundraising efforts, and anything else that could display a vanity Facebook URL. In doing so, they inserted an intermediary into their communications with their customers, fans, and supporters.  They have willingly made Facebook the owner of their relationship with their fans.

Facebook has returned the favor: not only are your page updates not reaching all of your fans, but you can now pay to reach all of the people that have "liked" your Facebook page and became your fan. (disclosure: I and many people assumed fan page updates were seen by all fans, but apparently this was not so)  They do claim that you were never reaching all of your fans before this update, but some believe otherwise.

Question: Why would you put your Facebook vanity URL onto a highway billboard instead of the URL of your own website?

Just to recap: you encouraged your fans to go to Facebook to follow you. Only a percentage of those that became your fan are actually seeing your updates. And after driving traffic to Facebook, they're now making you pay for the privilege of reaching all of the people that became your fan... And you're never provided with their contact information so you can't contact them directly.

What if, instead of charging relatively small amounts for you to get your updates in the news feed of your fans, they charged you for having a fan page and treated each of your updates as an advertisement that you needed to pay for. Think of all of the time, effort, and money that you wasted, as well as the fan connections that you'll lose, by essentially promoting Facebook as your primary media outlet.

It's time to re-claim your fanbase

Take a deep breath: it's time to stop promoting Facebook. Sure, you still want people to become a Facebook fan, and you still want people to share your site and updates with their friends, but it's time to divert the energy and money that you were dedicating to your Facebook page back to your website. It's time to re-energize your website, the one that has been stagnating while you post lots of fresh content to your Facebook fan page, and re-prioritize the tools that your site uses to get sign ups, provide updates, and send newsletters!

Rather than diverting them to Facebook and inserting that intermediary between you and your fans, get them to sign up with you so you can contact them directly, all of them, without paying "promotion fees" for the privilege. Instead of putting the Facebook logo on your homepage, almost as large as your own logo, and putting it in a position of prominence, perhaps put it in the sidebar or footer, smaller, not quite as dark blue (perhaps grey?)... and allow your own marketing to have higher authority.

Blogs aren't passe, you've been blogging without knowing it

Social media became the hot topic, replacing blogs, which are often no longer seen as hip. But blogging never went away; when you update your Facebook fan page, tweet on Twitter, use instagram, or any other "social media" service, you are actually blogging (photo-blogging, video-blogging, micro-blogging, etc.).

Bring that effort, and incredible content, back into your site. Put that same great content into your site's blog, or if you don't have blog functionality in your site, add it immediately. Use your website's blog as your content origination point, then use tools such as Ping.fm, RSS Graffiti, FeedBurner and others to distribute your content to the different networks. And if that other network is a content origination tool, make sure that that network is set to point that new content to your blog in addition to it's own network site. You'll still be able to take advantage of the social media benefits of content sharing, but you'll be establishing your property as the originating point, and all roads will lead back to your origination point.

Introspection

Once you've brought your content back to your site, take a look at your website and other promotional material. Ask yourself: am I promoting myself, or am I promoting these social media sites? Am I capturing fans that I can continually reconnect with, or am I giving someone else (such as Facebook) another revenue source? Do I own my fan relationship or does someone else?

Facebook and other social media sites should be part of your media/dissemination strategy, they should not the crux of your media/dissemination strategy.

And remember, for Google and other search engines, Content is King; Long Live the King.


UPDATE:

Seems that some companies are doubting the truth behind advertising on Facebook's platform, while others are doubting the value of "likes".

It also appears that Mark Cuban agrees with my assessment regarding Facebook.

ANOTHER UPDATE:

Between November 2013 and January 2014 "social publishers" saw their traffic dip substantially. These sites, sites that based their content marketing strategy almost entirely on Facebook, saw their traffic drop anywhere from 30% to 50%. To get a sense of what that meant for one publisher, Upworthy, that meant their traffic decreased from 14 million unique visitors in November to 7 million in January. Yes, a loss of 7 million visitors. It's probably a safe bet to assume that they're investigating other means of finding visitors and getting them to share content.


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7 comments:

  1. Great points, David. Many nonprofits may not realize this that Facebook may go away someday, and so will all of your 'fans' who you don't have contact info for.

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  2. Thanks for raising an interesting rather serious issue. I think many people and corporate use social media like FACEBOOK as it has established itself as a most engaging platform on internet - so to reach out to the masses they are using FB as an "advertising tool", the best choice after TV and print media promotions. The majorities are in the so called "belief" that people may not visit their sites but will login in to FB to check the latest updates, and thus creates a "chance" that the consumers/readers may visit their Fan Page.

    I would always prefer people to visit "my place " - my blog/site. There's no need to "flaunt" these social media buttons but as every1 is doing we tend to assume it is "necessary" to have them.

    Regards,
    Swapan Das

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  3. I'm often put off by hyperbole, and there's no shortage of that in this piece, but I agree with your essential message - you don't "have" your FB fans in the way that you "have" email subscribers or donors. They're a step above readers of newspapers or viewers of television in which you're advertising, and so they're more valuable and further up the pyramid of engagement, but there's a balance to be struck between building your presence in the FB channel and building relationships with supporters where you can reach out to them in other ways as well.

    Ultimately, FB is a different channel. It's not TV or radio, it's not email and definitely not direct mail. So equating it to those misses the mark. But I agree that if you're investing energy in "online content", your content's primary home should be one that you fully control.

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  4. Good points you raise about Facebook being the middle-guy.

    I've been kind of going back and forth on this matter over the last year or s, about focusing on social-network blogging or the traditional blogging (blogger).

    That G+ has no text limit for posts such as Twitter and Facebook used to have made it very luring to start blogging there, plenty of people have moved their blogging practices to G+. However, I have always been reluctant to fully blog on a social network but also wondered how much reach I was getting through my blog.

    In the last few weeks I have been really thinking about restarting my blog on blogger and use the social networks as tools, not go out of my way to promote the social network.

    You entry helps me to put things better into perspective and kind of bring a final solution to what I was already aiming for.

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  5. Hi Alex,

    Not sure where you saw so much hyperbole in the article, but so be it. We're not equating FB to email, tv, print, etc. We're commenting on the focus/attention/effort/money that organizations spend to get those Likes on Facebook, only to have to pay *again* to actually speak to them. Not to mention the dilution of their own branding that occurs when they plaster "like us on Facebook!" across their properties. Am I exaggerating? Driving down the highway this weekend I saw more ads that showed their Facebook vanity URL than I saw ads with their own URL. I also recently saw a photo of the door of new office for a local real estate company that devoted as much "screen real estate" to social media logos as they did for their own logo.

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  6. Dave, I actually read your stuff a lot but I am a huge troll and don't comment. This post is totally spot on, as I would expect from you....thanks!

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  7. True, content is king and not social media. there will more intermediate tools tlike facebook o connet our wesite and target audience, so how many of them can we rely on ? as blogger like us should focus one go golden rule : content is king

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