I’ll Just Do It On Facebook

I’ll use Facebook as my example here, but this really applies to any social media service.

The lure is strong.

When we see things go viral on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media services,  it’s tempting to think that’s where we should be putting most, perhaps even all, of our efforts.

Don’t get me wrong – social media can be an important part of a larger strategy. But it should never be the biggest part, and certainly not the only part, of such a strategy.

Let’s look at a few of the drawbacks of investing heavily in a single social media strategy and platform. (And then I’ll look at the right way to use ’em.)

Not all your people are there

As hard as it might be to believe, not everyone is on Facebook. It only seems that way. 🙂

Facebook certainly has a massive user base, and a lot of your existing or potential customers, clients, and friends are there, without a doubt; but not all of them.

By picking a social media platform like Facebook, you’re limiting yourself to only those people who happen to use it, and no one else.

Depending on your audience, there may be a high degree of overlap, or none at all. Regardless, by focusing on what seems like a popular and easy venue, you’re probably missing a significant portion of your potential audience.

They won’t see all your posts

Let’s assume for a moment your entire audience actually is on Facebook. This never happens, but for a moment, let’s pretend it’s so.

Let’s even say that all of those people actually took the step of “Liking” your Facebook page. Congratulations! You have a high number of page followers!

Even so, when you post something, it won’t reach all your people. There are two reasons for this:

  1. Facebook won’t show it to everyone. For example, as I write this, the Ask Leo! Facebook fan page has just over 9,200 “likes”, yet a recent post has been shown to only around 550 people. That’s simply how Facebook works. If I want it to be shown to more, I need to pay to “boost” the post.
  2. Have you seen your Facebook wall lately? Do you actually see everything that passes by? Of course not! Most people’s walls are so busy and so full of posts that your posts, even if they do make it through, stand a very good chance of still not being seen.

Facebook simply isn’t a reliable way to consistently reach out to your audience. They’re not all there, and even those who are aren’t likely to see what you have to say.

You’re working for someone else

I’ve written before about “digital sharecropping”. To quote my earlier post,

When you post on a social media service, it’s critical to remember that this is not your “land”. The service, and everything on it, ultimately belongs to the service provider. You are but a “tenant”, posting and sharing with the hopes of receiving some share of the attention of other users of the service.

By engaging with your people on Facebook, you’re building Facebook’s business.

By bringing your people to Facebook, you’re building Facebook’s business.

Wouldn’t you rather invest in your own business rather than theirs?

It could all disappear overnight

You’re going along, engaging some portion of your crowd on Facebook, and one day … you can’t log in. Your account has been hacked.

If you get it back (and it really is a big “if” for most people – I see accounts lost forever on a regular basis), you return to find that you’re no longer the owner of your fan page. Or if you are, that fan page was used to spam your followers to the point where there was a mass exodus and your follower count has been cut in half.

All your hard work – for nothing.

Another scenario: Facebook changes the rules (they’re allowed to do that, you know). All of a sudden, whatever it is you’re doing is against their policies. Or your posts are being shown to even fewer people.

All your hard work – for next to nothing.

Yet another scenario: it’s five years from now, and the masses have moved on, away from Facebook and onto whatever’s next. Facebook has become the new MySpace.

You get the idea. You don’t control your own destiny when you pin your hopes and efforts on someone else’s platform, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any of a hundred other social media services.

How to use social media safely

Despite all that, social media can and even should be a part of your overall strategy for reaching out and connecting with existing and new people. The trick is to do it safely.

This may sound kind of brutal, but keep it in mind; it’s the bottom line to using social media effectively and safely.

The goal of social media is to bring people back to your web site.

How do you do that? By adding value and giving them a legitimate reason to come visit you.

No, that doesn’t mean every post needs to be a link to your site. It means that after seeing the value you offer, people have a reason to visit. Then, yes, if some of your posts happen to link back to your site, that’s perfect.

But, as always, focus on value, not gratuitous clicks. There are enough click-bait sites doing that already. Don’t be like them.

Then, when people visit your site …  offer up more value. Give them an opportunity to see more of what you have to offer.

And, of course, give them the opportunity to subscribe to your mailing list. Your mailing list is probably your most valuable asset – and it’s yours. It’s what you keep no matter what happens. It’s how you reach out to all the people that actually asked to be on it.

Your site and your mailing list – the destiny you do control.

7 comments on “I’ll Just Do It On Facebook”

  1. Excellent post. In general terms, very few people understand that they are actually the product being sold.

    “You get the idea. You don’t control your own destiny when you pin your hopes and efforts on someone else’s platform”…

    I feel exactly that way about using MS Windows operating system, my Android phone and Clouds with unenforceable and unverifiable privacy policies etc. The rules can change anytime.

    • I guess I see things like Windows and Android and various cloud storage providers as completely different. If, for example, you do your work on Windows and it somehow fails you, you have plenty of alternatives to switch to, (assuming you’re properly backed up, which I know you are). If you build your audience on Facebook, and it fails you, your audience is gone. Period. No recovery. In a sense getting people back to your web site to sign up for your list is a kind of “back up” – something you control.

  2. Excellent and timely. Thank you very much. I have also shared it with some on my contacts…on Facebook. 🙂

  3. He’s right. I’m a frequent visitor to Leo’s web pages but I don’t have a Facebook account or, for that matter, any social media account.

  4. I am well aware of the drawback of social media. It is transitory, it fades easily. But it has taught me a lot and I have been able too exchange ideas with a much more diverse group of people than I would otherwise meet or have the opportunity to know, or to know virtually. So be careful, be cautious, do not put all your eggs in one basket but use FB or other social media for what it is and what it has to offer.

    • Absolutely. I’m not suggesting you ignore social media. Use it as makes sense for you and your situation. But also be prepared for it to go away or the landscape to change at any time. Social media is not the basket into which to place all your eggs, as you say. 🙂

  5. Great points! I find myself frustrated with companies that rely on Facebook as their main way of promoting and selling their product or service. While I think Facebook is a great way for companies to communicate with customers, it should not be the sole method of communication nor should it be the “main” page to reach customers, either.