Scared social: why Facebook must remain an integral part of your strategy


In all forms of marketing, perception is everything. Social media takes this intangible, sometimes subjective reality to the next level, because it’s always there and always changing. For entrepreneurial marketers looking to establish a brand socially, a network’s tainted image – be it real or perceived – may be equally as important as the published content itself.

MySpace serves as the obvious example of a tainted a network, but more relevant to this discussion is Facebook. Despite its enormous success, Facebook has faced and fought a perception battle for several years; there’s an increasingly common misconception that Facebook is losing its valuable western audience.

This notion isn’t helped by such Guardian articles as Facebook loses millions of users as biggest markets peak, which was almost instantly dismissed by Socialbakers, the firm which provided the data that served as the basis of the article. Unfortunately, the damage was already done. It was yet another piece of ‘evidence’ served up as ‘proof’ that Facebook was losing its relevance, its mind share, and its most valuable asset: users.

Every social media platform lives and dies by its cachet with its audience. As soon as a MySpace or an Empire Avenue loses its early adopters — its core group of influencers, or thought leaders, or whatever you want to call them — the taint of uncool is almost impossible to dispel. How we are perceived in social is everything, and businesses do not want their brand to be seen as participating in a network that has lost its luster.

Facebook’s true condition is somewhat less headline-worthy, however, and runs contrary to the cries of privacy advocates who participate in inherently social (and public) networks: Facebook is still relevant and remains incredibly strong. Facebook is where your audience is, no matter what your audience. If you’ve ever questioned your participation, look at your data, because data doesn’t lie (NB: Excluding Google’s G+ usage claims). Facebook’s numbers remain staggering.

There is a continual tendency among early adopter-types to move onto the Next Big Thing™ – be it Google+ or Diaspora. The desire to be the first to bail out on popularity is omnipresent and contagious, and no one wants to be left behind when the cool kids leave. As social marketers and business owners looking to create a perception of our brand, we are innately cognizant of getting our message in front of the influential minority, and this is where a balance between the new and the mainstream channels must come into play.

Much like the recent Guardian article that headlined supposed user drop-off, there was a very public announcement last year from GM that it was pulling all its Facebook advertising money. A million advertisers immediately started to second-guess themselves: if GM can’t see any ROI from Facebook, then what hope does anybody with much smaller budgets have? Cue: the blogs and the talking heads raking over the coals of yet another silver bullet in Facebook’s bloodied, but still breathing corpse. Of course, what you didn’t see trumpeted so loudly was GE restoring its ad monies to Facebook earlier this year, very quietly, with absolutely no fanfare. Status quo, restored.

What isn’t ever disputed is the importance of mobile to capture mind share in the land of the second screen. At the same time the blogosphere was rubbing its hands to the tune of the latest drop in users report, Facebook posted a significant increase in users within the mobile segment. Last quarter the company saw its second biggest growth in mobile users in their history. Stagnation not yet realized then, and a significant and extremely active mobile audience that cannot be ignored.

It bears repeating that an entrepreneur and a social marketer looking to establish a brand in social should always go where the audience is, because bridging that divide between brand and user is the hardest battle of all.

Listen to that vocal minority to stay abreast of the cool, but for most industries and verticals, dig into your data and you’ll find one fact remains: your audience is on Facebook in huge droves, and so should remain the bulk of your time, your messaging, and yes, your ad dollars.

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