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Facebook Marketing: Six Reasons to Approach With Caution

by Douglas Karr  |  
March 14, 2011

In this article, you'll learn...

  • Six reasons companies should be skeptical of using Facebook
  • Why your content is not safe or protected on Facebook
  • The extent of Facebook's control over its user accounts

What slowly began as a dorm-room phenomenon has developed into one of the world's most essential business strategies. Facebook advertising, pages, and places have positioned the social networking site as a staple in the marketing industry.

Social media strategies are important, but before businesses jump headfirst into a campaign, they may want to take a closer look at Facebook's power over every account, page, and photograph.

1. Forget control in this hierarchy; Facebook is king

Every Facebook page is assigned directly to a user. When a company's page is created, one user becomes its administrator. When that employee leaves or changes position, a logistical problem arises. Or, if the page administrator decides to disable his or her personal Facebook account, the company page also goes away.

Adding multiple administrators seems a logical recourse; but if Facebook views page activity as "suspicious," it may disable every account associated with it. Moreover, when an account is disabled, all of its pages, fans, content, applications, and ads are lost.

And the road to getting the account re-enabled can lead to a bureaucratic black hole: After you submit a form requesting the account be re-enabled, there is no support, timeline, or guarantee that it will be.

2. Facebook can can change features at the drop of a hat

Besides disabling an account without warning, Facebook also has control over when to change its layout, application programming interface, or setup. In all those instances, Facebook doesn't deal with the change; the user does.

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Douglas Karr is CEO of DK New Media, the author of Corporate Blogging for Dummies, and chief blogger/founder of the Marketing Technology Blog .

LinkedIn: Douglas Karr

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  • by Tom Mon Mar 14, 2011 via web

    Excellent article!
    Good to remind everyone about the "totalitarian" state of FB.

  • by Meredith Blevins Mon Mar 14, 2011 via web

    Particularly good for busnesses to know that if the administrator goes, the page can go. And, that creating a page with several administrators to offset this damage can riase a red flag.

    Yes, diverisification, as in all other phases of business, is key to social media.

  • by Beata Mon Mar 14, 2011 via web

    Actually - in response to point #3 - I've worked with Facebook advertising and have to say that their support team is generally responsive and helpful.

    Of course there's no overt support for users regarding regular features, but if you're inquiring regarding an advertising problem, then you'll get an answer within a reasonable time frame. :)

    I have seen Facebook make some changes in response to users, however. When they recently re-arranged fan pages, they also changed the order of wall posts according to "relevancy." There were scads of forums and requests for chronological order to be restored, and within a week, Facebook had surreptitiously returned walls to a chronological order, with the option to display according to "relevancy," whatever that means.

  • by Steven Gibson Mon Mar 14, 2011 via web

    Well said Douglas. It's not what people necessarily want to hear, but they must.

    It's painful to see grown business people fight back the tears when they realise / cannot believe how feature changes can skew all their work or how an errant employee hi-jacked their business because they allowed him/her to set up the company facebook.

    Almost as painful as when they first started to realise hard drives can fail or when they let some random web company control their domain name.

    It's best they know now.

  • by Leslie Nolen | The Radial Group Mon Mar 14, 2011 via web

    Great minds think alike - I posted two more reasons just last week:

    The bottom line is that your FB investment and commitment has to be "risk-adjusted" for the distinct possibility that a FB change which benefits THEIR corporate strategy actually disadvantages YOUR individual business and/or seriously ticks off your customers.

    Leslie Nolen
    The Radial Group
    The health and wellness business experts.

  • by NickyJameson Mon Mar 14, 2011 via web

    @Beata - Facebook still haven't really returned it to chronological order at all. Only users can set the order - now called "Most Recent" posts. Admins cannot set the order of posts on their pages. And to ensure users set the correct option they will have to continually tell users and hope they see the message (unlikely).
    Facebook should have a big #fail for customer services overall and most would agree with this. The user outcry when they changed page post order was so huge (one group got over 11,400 members within the week) that they were eventually forced to make changes. Before that about turn they were telling users that relevancy was best because Facebooks says it's best.

    Right now there are complaints about the broken "suggest to friends" for pages (broken for several weeks) Facebook is as usual silent about it, yet it's a key way to bring fans to a page.

    Every single one of the points in this article is valid and should be a wake-up call to businesses....if you put all your eggs in the Facebook basket, just be prepared to lose them all. It is actually quite scary how little control or ownership businesses have over their pages and how some are even thinking a Facebook page is suitable a replacement for their website or blog. When something is free you need to ask yourself why.

  • by Tobey Deys Mon Mar 14, 2011 via web

    While it is important to incorporate social media into every marketing strategy, it's critical to remember that it's 'rented' space. It's like investing your life savings into a property over which the 'landlord' has complete control. Always better to build on land that you own.

  • by Cluey Mon Mar 14, 2011 via web

    Well said and good to see someone injecting some balance and a bit of a reality check into the blinding FB rush!

  • by Christopher Gamble Mon Mar 14, 2011 via web

    Great thanks for that...I'll share it on Facebook!

  • by Ann Handley Mon Mar 14, 2011 via web

    Tobey: That's an apt analogy, and one I use all the time when I speak at events and get the (inevitable) question: "Why do I need a content strategy or a blog or a *website* even... when I have a Facebook page, for free?"

    You're so right: Would you build a house on rented land? Then don't build your business on space you don't own, either.

    That said, there are a few businesses for whom it might make sense... I'm talking about VERY small micro-businesses, who might use Facebook to establish a presence and a business. But again, it's a stepping stone to a larger online presence. (In other words, it's a stepping stone to your own website. Like training wheels for an online presence. Definitely not an end point.)

    And p.s. to Christoper... LOL. Funny comment.

  • by Tobey Deys Mon Mar 14, 2011 via web

    Ann: you make a really great point about micro-businesses or community organizations who are trying to establish a stronger local presence; who want to connect with an audience in their immediate vicinity. Facebook, Twitter et. al. would be a valid introduction given their ease of use, functionality and 'immediacy'. (And, for many small business owners I talk to, a website still seems intimidating and onerous :-)

    As you say, the smart money has them connect with and build their following, establish trust and then invite them to their blog/website to continue the date there ;-)

    ... and I love the 'training wheels' imagery (I always promise not to take them off at the top of the hill)

  • by Danny Naz - Naz Creative Mon Mar 14, 2011 via web

    Interesting read. This reinforces the fact that you cannot put all your marketing marbles in the same bag. Diversify!

  • by Douglas Karr Tue Mar 15, 2011 via web

    Thanks for all the great feedback on the article. It's definitely a cautionary message, not a recommendation to skip Facebook altogether. No one doubts their landgrab online and the need for companies to have a presence.

    I hope that FB adds personalized support for pages that matches their Ads support that @Beata describes. You simply can't leave companies out in the cold like this. Much of the issue, as I see it, is that commerce has not been the priority of FB, consumer growth has been. They need to plan both if they wish to be a successful company beyond just a valuation.

  • by Nick Stamoulis Tue Mar 15, 2011 via web

    No company should rely solely on Facebook (or social media marketing in general) as their main traffic source. If Facebook shuts down for some reason, where does that leave your website? You can't rely on one source of traffic. If that source fails, your site becomes invisible to the public.

  • by Kathy Parsanko Tue Mar 15, 2011 via web

    All great points. Thank you!

    Here's a question I haven't seen discussed much, to go along with your words, "changing features at the drop of a hat." What about the new newsfeed setting that automatically sets a default to ONLY show posts from people who you’ve recently interacted with, or interacted with the most? I was told this went into effect just a few weeks before they changed to the new profile setting.

    Is it true that unless your friends/fans commented on one of your posts within those few weeks, or vice versa, you are now invisible to them and they are invisible to you? Those of us who have spent time building quality content and relationships on our business page(s) would find that disheartening.

    How are businesses getting the word out to their fans who haven't interacted for awhile, and may no longer see their posts?

  • by Douglas Karr Tue Mar 15, 2011 via web

    Kathy - I've seen this on my personal wall. You're correct, though... not every piece of posted content will be seen!

  • by Danny Naz - Naz Creative Tue Mar 15, 2011 via web

    @Kathy @ Douglas, same here. You just need to step up the frequency of posts as well as making sure that you post to people that you want to be seen by.

  • by Kathy Parsanko Tue Mar 15, 2011 via web

    Douglas and Danny, this is something new, correct? I don't think most people realize you now have to manually change your facebook setting to see all pages and friends that you once "liked." It's frustrating for those of us who built a business fan base over time; our fans don't even know that they're not seeing our posts.

  • by NickyJameson Tue Mar 15, 2011 via web

    Kathy - it's now the default for profiles on Face book.
    As far as profiles are concerned you need to reset it to to all pages and people by going into your newsfeed %3E settings (it's always been there, it's just not very obvious and no one knew when it became the default). To let your fans and friends know you can do what I did - set up an event, tell your friends to change their settings in the event and invite them to the "event." You could post as a status but since they probably can't see your posts there's little point. You need something that goes into their inbox - which is an event. You cannot message fans directly however so you would need to send the event as an update from your page. And of course you can also post on your page. You can invite your friends to an event and get them to tell their friends. I had a lot of response when I did this.

    In terms of posting, frequency is less important than what you actually post because Facebook decides what people will see in their feeds - it's called Edgerank, you can Google it. I can say this though - photos and video (via Facebook's own video app) will almost always get seen before mere content. And from what I've seen anything posted from a third party app ranks a lot lower than what you post yourself. If you post too frequently you can turn people off... losing you both fans/friends.

  • by Danny Naz - Naz Creative Tue Mar 15, 2011 via web

    Yes, totally new as of a few weeks ago. Most people don't realize 90% of the changes that facebook makes because they operate in the dark. They seems to feel the need to be secretive.

  • by Kathy Parsanko Tue Mar 15, 2011 via web

    Nicky, thank you so much! This entire article and all these comments have been really helpful.

  • by NickyJameson Tue Mar 15, 2011 via web

    It's my pleasure Kathy, happy to help. This came up in early Feb and since then I always check my news feed settings. And in case I wasn't clear, when you invite everyone to the event they don't actually have to attend of course, it is just a way to let them know they may not be seeing all posts and how to fix it. Most people respond to events so they are more likely to see it than a status update. If you do post a status update be sure to tell anyone who does see it to repost as their status.

    Also to find the "update fans" link you need to go to your Page then find "Marketing" on the left hand side (I think it's with Insights) and it's hidden away there. Again, not many people know it's there at all but you can even customize who you update. It's quite powerful - IF you know it's there.

  • by Kathy Parsanko Tue Mar 15, 2011 via web

    Nicky, that information is worth gold.

  • by NickyJameson Tue Mar 15, 2011 via web

    @Douglas - It would be nice if Facebook offered personalized support for for pages, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Business pages (and by extension marketing on Facebook) were very much an afterthought to social and sharing and connecting people. And let's not forget businesses are using this powerful platform free.

    While it's free Facebook can do exactly as they like, change anything at the drop of a hat. They do and they will. If you're advertising on Facebook then they should respond when you have an issue - at least you are spending money with them. However, I have know that even advertisers don't get special treatment.

    Meanwhile, Facebook continues to grow... lots of people complain about their non-existent "customer service" and whims, but they don't seem to leave. Because Facebook is free and even with all the risks it can be powerful for engagement and branding. The exception to the above of course was the chronological posts issue. But it takes a huge amount of energy, people and constant action to get such a movement going.

    Businesses should use Facebook. But they should diversify, understand that Facebook isn't their brand and have what they actually own as their business hub and Facebook as one of the spokes.

  • by Douglas Karr Tue Mar 15, 2011 via web

    @NickyJameson - agree with one exception... Facebook is not free for businesses. Although Facebook doesn't charge for a page, it requires someone's resources to get that page built, the content written, and a following developed. This is where Facebook must step up. Businesses can't continue to invest in a risky platform.

  • by NickyJameson Tue Mar 15, 2011 via web

    Oh yes, it's absolutely not free from the resources viewpoint, tell me about it. Time is money and I bet if calculated it would be a significant cost. But I was referring to a paid platform... which would be in addition to the time, resources, expertise etc that would need to be invested.

    @Kathy - I double checked where to find the "Update Fans" option: It is Page %3E Edit Profile. In the left hand navigation you will see Marketing, click Marketing and it will reveal a page and on that page is Update Fans. You can send all sorts of things to your fans via Update Fans, including events.

  • by Shawn Sun May 22, 2011 via web

    Great read, thanks for taking the time!

    Why don't u do a counter story with 6 reason its still profitable, or something like that for US newbies of the site.

  • by wilburgsmith Wed Oct 17, 2012 via web

    Thanks for sharing this! Nice post! I only knew Gentlemint and now I am going to check out all of these. Maybe I could add Reddit which is very neat and friendly as a social network and a social bookmarking site!

    Product Feed management

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