To Facebook or not to Facebook?

July 1, 2011 by · 17 Comments
Filed under: General Chat 

I was supposed to be outside helping to clip some sheep today (new readers and those of you that are unobservant – I live on a real life farm), but the sheep clipping man has failed to turn up.

I believe the Americans would describe him as having “demons”, and us Brits would describe him as “an alcoholic”, all I know is that it usually takes him until at least 11.30 (am) for the smell of booze to be replaced by the smell of Red Bull, but I digress, on with the blog post.

When I’m not sat behind a computer screen writing moderately offensive things about my farming workforce and wondering to myself if said workforce man is ever likely to buy a computer and read this blog, I provide web design and hosting services to local businesses.

Recently some of these businesses have been asking me about Facebook, they’ve seen the little blue icon everywhere and they want a piece of the action, but what’s the point?

Does a Facebook page really help a business?

*prepare for mass un-researched personal opinion presented as fact*

In my opinion, it depends, and here’s why.

Facebook was (ironically) invented by geeks, a tribe of people known for their lack of social skills, but despite that, they created the biggest socialising medium the world has ever seen. (BOOM, there’s the irony)

It was created as an easy, geek friendly way to keep in touch with class mates and friends through a centralized system, at this point business and marketing had never even been considered, it wasn’t until the Facebook boom that businesses caught on that you could get in touch with potentially millions of people who would be interested in their product with little or no cost, it was at that point that more and more businesses decided to join Facebook.

But joining Facebook and creating a fan page doesn’t equal instant success.

Facebook is still primarily used for it’s original purpose, and as the years have gone by lots of great new features have been added to make it more accessible for people, whose primary goal is to keep in touch with friends and relatives. For example, here’s what the majority of people use Facebook for:

1. Impressing your friends with your amazing sense of humor, despite having clearly copy/pasted the joke from elsewhere.

corrections happen all the time when I'm writing blog posts

2. “Checking in” to cool places with other people, to make people sat at home on Facebook feel jealous of your coolness and popularity, not only do you go places, but you feel the need to tell people where you’ve been.

it's the taking part, and how many crashes you can cause that counts

3. Taking pictures of yourself in situations you believe will make you seem more attractive and desirable to the opposite sex.

when it's hot, I dress accordingly

4. Showing everyone what a great sense of humor you have by liking amusing things that other people have written.

oh how I what some other person had written

5. Flirting with Crystal St ‘Clare

Crystal is shy and doesn't want her picture to appear on my blog

6. Trying to convince people that your taste in music is better than theirs by posting links to countless Youtube videos.

When I grow up, I want to be Bruce Springsteen

It’s all very vain, mindless, and shallow, but nobody cares, because it’s all a bit of fun, you go on Facebook and you can turn your brain off and relax. That’s what Facebook is good for.

When you are on Facebook “doing your thing”, do you really want to know that Joe the local window cleaner has just “cleaned one of the biggest windows I’ve ever seen, it was banging”, or that Mary the local Baker just made an exceptionally nice batch of pies….bad example, I probably would want to know that.

But my point is kind of in there somewhere, people don’t log onto Facebook to see what a local business is doing.

If you run a business (and I do, so I can relate to this) it does tend to rule your life somewhat, you are passionate about it and want to tell people about it, but in reality do the people on Facebook really care?

A real life example for you, one of the companies I work with designs bespoke furniture, and they’ve just created a Facebook fan page. Now how often are you likely to buy a new sofa, once every 4 or 5 years maybe. When you walk into the showroom to check out the sofas, that’s what you are concentrating on, your mission for the next few hours is to buy a sofa, but once it’s bought, that’s it. Is the customer going to get any benefit from “Liking” the company on Facebook and having to put up with their Sofa related status updates for the next 4 – 5 years, I doubt it.

However, it’s not just local businesses that are on Facebook, all the big multi-national’s are on there as well. Look what I found just this morning whilst I was having my breakfast:

The problem is the taste too good.....and have a nasty habbit of getting bits stuck in your teeth

Now I like Crunchy Nut Cornflakes as much as the next man, but what would be the purpose of “liking” them on Facebook? Would all of my friends see that I liked Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and suddenly have an urge to go buy some?

I tried to find out more information on what the purpose of the Crunchy Nut Cornflakes facebook page was all about, but when I clicked on the link it didn’t work:

touch screen fail

McDonalds are at it was well, in the past 2 weeks I’ve “liked” every Mc* there is, but after “liking” the page, absolutely nothing, so what’s the point of them spending money on a team of boffins to put together a Facebook page that will serve no benefit to me, and ultimately them? I’m starting to think it all must be part of a masterplan and it’s going way over my head.

Not all Facebook pages for businesses are pointless though, another of my offline clients actually uses it to very good effect. He’s a very good artist, and so he has genuine “fans” that check out his Facebook page to keep up with his latest art work. He provides value to them by posting pictures of his latest work, and just generally chatting to them, answering any arty type questions. I’ll even link to his page so you can check it out for yourself:

You can see the difference between his Facebook fan page and the bog standard business fan pages I’m sure you’ve all come across, I have no data to be able to put a figure on it, but the vast majority of business fan pages on Facebook are like Ghost Towns.

Even our very own D9 Hosting Facebook fan page:

Isn’t a hive of activity, despite people using the service on a daily basis.

So I just really don’t get the point of a lot of these businesses having Facebook fan pages, there is obviously some potential there, purely due to the number of people that use Facebook, but as of yet, I’ve come across very few that have been able to make Facebook “work” for them, on a business level.


P.S. As you can see from the screen shots in this post, I do have a Facebook page, but it’s used purely for people I know in “real life”. So please don’t be offended if any readers have added me in the past and I’ve declined, it’s purely because I don’t know who you are, it doesn’t mean you aren’t cool, or look funny, it’s just me keeping work and play very much apart 😉

P.P.S. If you are a friend on Facebook, and I’ve never met you in real life, I was either intoxicated when accepting the request, or you are very, very special! 😀