Before I get started let me go ahead and say that I’m sure this is going to make the powers that be upset with what I’m about to say, but enough is enough. For the last couple of years I’ve watched multiple industries stress how important it is to market to the users of Facebook and other social media sites. I’ve watched SalesForce.com and others re-develop their CRM systems in order to add Social Media products to their offerings. I’ve gone to seminar after seminar to hear people talk about how important it is for even the smallest of businesses to start and maintain Facebook accounts and to try to watch what people are saying about their products and services.
Now obviously this article is my opinion and no huge amount of research has been done to prove my points that I’m about to offer, but how many people really visit Facebook inorder to buy products? Do people buy products off of Facebook? Sure, I’m sure that some people do click the ads to check things out, but how many physically buy things? People visit and use Facebook for 2 simple reasons. 1) And this is most important! Its Free! If Facebook tomorrow started charging for accounts they’d be out of business in a year. 2) They can meetup and talk to people that they haven’t seen or heard from in years. It gives them something to do when otherwise they’d be sitting idle. Some people even become addicted to posting and reading Facebook and other sites because it gives them self worth. I mean think about it. The vast majority of heavy Facebook users probably don’t hold positions where people listen to them much. With this Free service they can now say things and offer their opinions and feel that others are reading their posts and listening. Don’t take me wrong. I’m not condemning what Facebook is good for, only that it in no way helps businesses. I’m also not saying that there are not exceptions or particular products that might actually sell really well on Facebook or other social media sites. I’m just trying to get you to ask yourself, is your product really one of them?
So having said the truth, just what does it mean for a business. Is there huge amounts of data sitting there to learn from? Is it really worth showing ads in front of people just to show ads, knowing that the real reason people are visiting is to spray paint on billboards for everyone to see? So lets assume that we start a Facebook page for nizeX. Just what does that mean and what are we trying to accomplish? Lets go through the steps and analyze the effects on our bottom line.
1) We create our page today and take it live. Does the world know we did this? Is there some massive alert sent out to all attendees on Facebook that nizeX has gone live on Facebook? Nope, crickets commence because this is step one of a very lengthy process.
2) So we start posting some updates on Facebook to share with our customers. But surprisingly no one is visiting. Basically because they still don’t know we exist. But we take the time to add some content there anyway.
3) Next we decide that in order to get visitors we need to start advertising that we have a Facebook account. So we pull out our wallet and we start paying Facebook to advertise our existence or we just take the easy way out and start telling customers that come into our business about our Facebook account. The real issue here though is unless your selling gossip or some other addictive drug, most people could care less about your announcing sells on Facebook. Sure, you’ll get friended by your biggest customers but most people will forget about your account before they get out your doors.
4) Now is when we start to realize this Facebook thing is actually going to take some real resources to get started and then afterwards even more to keep it going. Why is this you ask? Because in reality, people don’t pay attention to links and data that are weeks or months old. This means you need to hire someone full time or at least part time to do nothing but post articles and information to your account to keep people coming there. But honestly, did we need Facebook for this? Or perhaps getting our loyal customers to just come to our website could have served the same purpose?
I have had numerous conversations (some would say arguments) with people over the fact that it takes a huge amount of time and effort to get any website or Facebook account going. If you don’t believe me, start a forum tomorrow and try to get people to come post questions and articles to it and watch how many people come read them. This is no simple task and you’re competing with every other company out there that is trying to do the same thing.
Now where does CRM come into this? Other companies that we compete with continue to push social media solutions as if companies are foolish if they don’t install a social media site in order for their employees to have discussions and to share information. Obviously on paper this sounds really good. Sharing information is one of companies largest problems and keeping everyone on the same page gets more and more complicated the larger you grow. But is installing a social media plugin how you handle this? Or might it make more sense to have a CRM or ERP system that does a better job at what its suppose to be doing anyway?
So you ask, Glenn, what is the real solution here and how do we solve it? Well, before you can find a solution you first have to identify the problem. What is the real problem? Is it that our employees do not communicate enough? Is it that we have too many documents and processes to begin with and we should streamline some of them? Is it that we don’t track communications with our customers well enough to keep up with where the real breakdowns are? I could go on for hours, but we all have problems that need constant attention. At nizeX we are constantly fighting data problems and how to handle them. Lucky for us (and you) we happen to have a team of highly skilled developers at our beck and call to help solve them. Lucky for you since we are using the exact same version of Lizzy that our customers do and we all benefit from the enhancements.
It is my opinion that in order to maintain proper communication channels between everyone in a company, you need to first develop the channels, then you need software to help keep them open and clean. Getting involved in Facebook and other like sites just for the sake of being hip, is the best way to waste time and money that you likely don’t have to waste. Back away from the cool-aid and ask yourself what your problems really are before you start trying to find solutions for them. Thinking a social media site is going to save your company will only take your eye of the ball and cause you to strike out.
One last thing. There is plenty of good evidence that people spend more and more time on Facebook. There is also evidence that there are a lot of people using it, although I disagree that there are as many as is reported. The point however, is not that there are lots of users and that they spend lots of time on the website, but more important, is what are they really doing there?
By the way, I used Facebook here as my example, but you can pretty much (in my opinion) plug any social media site in its place and you’ll see the same results.