While an effective, planned presence on the largest social network in the world is part of most people’s social media engagement, a Facebook presence alone is not all there is to effective participation in social media. Though building a sphere of influence or reaching out to your offline community through your personal profile can be part of an effective strategy for small businesses or professionals, you need more if you expect to create a viable and long term social media presence
Facebook is the most populated social network in the world. With over 700 million members at this writing, and 51% of the population of the U.S. participating its almost harder to find someone who isn’t on Facebook than it is to find a Facebook member. Through the creation of Profiles, Pages, Groups, and Questions, Facebook is an easy and full featured platform for social networking. But that has had an unintended consequence for people who are mainstream adopters – they think that participation in Facebook is all that’s needed for them to establish a personal or business presence in the web 2.0 world.
And so to the five reasons Facebook should not be your sole presence on the web;
First and most obvious is that by doing so you tie your business and personal presence to Facebook and your future is totally in their hands. Their privacy policies, pricing decisions and interface changes are out of your control, and are made with no concern for your needs. Additionally you are at their mercy as they change their terms of service. Like the users of Twitpic who woke up one morning to find out that Twitpic was retaining the right to resell the photos that had been uploaded to their site, you could awake one morning to similar announcements about the photos, other media and data you had uploaded or input to Facebook.
Second – Though the chances are great that your chosen community or target market is on Facebook, that may not be the primary place they interact, or the place where they are most responsive. For example if your field requires business to business marketing, LinkedIn may be a more appropriate venue for your marketing efforts. If you are a retail business, a location based strategy involving a tool like Foursquare which can allow you to make special offers , or review site like Yelp might be where your efforts should be focused.
Third – Your presence on Facebook may lull you into a false sense of security, making you believe you are more engaged with your community than you actually are. Facebook pages for example can provide a “false positive” if you measure the number of fans you have instead of the amount of engagement on your Facebook page since most people that “like” a page never go back to view or engage there.
Fourth – One of the primary benefits of Social Media is the manner in which it levels the playing field, A smart small participant can compete really effectively with a larger company by applying their efforts in a really creative manner like the first places on Foursquare that offered coupons, or early adopters that used twitter as a distribution network for special offers or coupons, On Facebook there’s already an awful lot of clutter and as in any cluttered marketing space, the benefits often go to the competitor with the largest checkbook. if you don’t have a specific plan to reach your business goals using your Facebook page.
Fifth – The Web 2.0 world is a constantly evolving arena and there is no one platform so large or so stable that it should be the focus of your complete business social media strategy. By developing a multiple channel presence, you are insured to some degree , if even a small one, against the vicissitudes of technology and business development. Cross-channel participation also increases the impact your interaction has on the members of your online community who participate in more than one social media channel.
So while the need to have a Facebook presence through profiles, pages, and groups seems an obvious and easy strategy, by itself its not enough by itself. Think about where else the members of your online community interact, so that you can enhance and strengthen your position as a trusted active member of that community. As a wise man (my son Hal) is fond of saying , “Three years ago social media was Myspace and Friendster – now its Facebook and Twitter – in three more years it may be something else” . Only change is truly constant in business. Be prepared for that change by listening to your online community, following its path of migration and engagement , and participating the their ever evolving use of social tools and channels.