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May 23, 2011

5

The Center of the Corporate Galaxy is not Facebook

by Anthony Verre

Wrong. Facebook is not the center of your online universeI don’t know how it happened. I don’t know why it happened. And, I don’t know who thought it was a good idea. I do know, however, that your corporate Facebook page should not be a substitute for your website. And, yet for some reason, major brands insist that interested consumers go to their Facebook page from expensive television ads and paper ads. Let me start out by saying, that it’s commendable that big brands are attempting to integrate social media into their repertoire. But to use Facebook, and other social media sites, as the central hub of how consumers get to know your brand, and interact with your brand, is simply wrong.

Your Website is the Center of Your Galaxy

Your website is, and will always be, the center of your corporate galaxy. It retains the most gravity (in a sense) with major search engines, it’s what brand-loyalists will know first, and it’s what prospective consumers of the brand will run across first.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc are satellites in the corporate galaxy, and are of varying size like the planets in our galaxy.  For example, your Facebook page can be the Jupiter of your corporate online universe: a hefty gravity of its own, numerous moons, but still bound to the gravitational pull of the Sun (your website).

Put it in Perspective

How Your Corporate Online Universe Really Functions

Satellite Brand Extensions

Social sites are satellite extensions of your brand, they were never meant to be the spokesperson for your brand, but rather a liaison or a networking mercenary. A lot will argue that point because they think that’s exactly what social is intended for: spokesperson-dom. But, it shouldn’t be the authority on your brand. That’s your website’s job. It’s where the information is (or at least should be). It’s where consumers find out what you offer, what you do, and how you do it. And, yet, big brands are continually positioning Facebook as the destination.

Everything Facebook Can Do, Your Website Can Do

Even those brands using Facebook successfully are still driving consumers back to their website to engage the content, tacking some identifiers into the URL string so they know the came from Facebook. Let’s look at a cross-section of several industries:

All the contests you promote, all the special content you promote, and all the slick, time-saving apps are already on your website. Why aren’t you driving engagement there? Why not advertise specially created landing pages from costly TV ads and print buys? Why are you driving already-loyal consumers, and those you hope to persuade, to the Facebook walled-garden? Moreover, why are you sending them to place where your competitor’s ads are and can roam freely, defeating the purpose? That’s why there’s Facebook Connect, allowing people to “like”, share, and interact with your Facebook wall directly from your website.

Don’t Tell Me It’s About SERPs & Engagement

Even though Bing will be using Facebook “Like” data in the SERPs, it’s still not very prevalent. Here’s one example query, signed in with Facebook credentials: “milwaukee bucks” – Bing http://binged.it/jgfs2z . It’s no different than what you would find in Google’s SERP, signed in, with +1 and social connections promoting things via Twitter. Beyond that, just how influential are these social “vouches”, the “likes”, in the search results? Are they really that jam-packed with influence as to alter a searcher’s decision? In my opinion, no, not in the least. But that won’t stop SEMs and Social gurus from pushing it down everyone’s throat to justify their existence.

Engagement? Is the engagement that much better or more meaningful on Facebook? Is a “like” really that significant on a macro or micro strategy level? All these big corporations, and mid-sized businesses, are doing is creating an extra step to get to the information. If you want to get people to enter your contest, or look at specials you’re running, or engage some nifty application that might make their lives easier, why not send them to unique landing pages on your site? It stands to reason there would be some incredibly valuable consumer engagement when they don’t have extra barriers to plow through, right?

Keep your corporate website the focus of your online universeHere Comes the Sun

Stop treating your website as superfluous. It is your online brand. It is the center of your corporate universe and all your social satellites revolve in its orbit, not the other way around. Your website shows up in search results first; I’ve seen corporate pages take up to as many as the first 5 spots. And, what’s never on the first page of results in both Bing and Google? Your Facebook page.

Your social media efforts should serve to drive consumers, and links, back to the site where the engagement and experience is richer, more informative, and more data mine-able to help you make better decisions about your website and your social campaigns.

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5 Comments
  1. Terry Van Horne
    May 23 2011

    “Your website is, and will always be, the center of your corporate galaxy. It retains the most gravity (in a sense) with major search engines, it’s what brand-loyalists will know first, and it’s what prospective consumers of the brand will run across first.”

    5 yrs. ago I’d agree fully… but… is it the Users Galaxy? I disagree with most of what this suggests. SE are a channel no more important than any other. If most of your traffic is from SE’s you have a risky business. Most of theese brands doing the FB pages in ads have had websites for a long time. Likely seeing More “engagement” on Facebook then they ever have from their website. Sorry that is a Search centric mentatlity… these websites have seen their day in the sun… obviously these advertisers are getting what they want from Facebook not the website.

    • May 23 2011

      Terry,

      That definitely a fair view of the situation, and a great comment. As you point out, Engines are only a single channel; however, that said, I still think they are the most prominent channel for users to engage to “find stuff”. I’d be curious to know what type of engagement you think users have on a FB business page/fan page? Moreover, I don’t really believe it’s obvious that corporations are getting what they want from a Facebook page? What are they really getting: “Likes”, “Fans”, some comments on their wall? How do those things increase bottom-line, in true gross revenue? When I consider user-behavior, I see more people attempting to find what they want from the brand they want (i.e. typing in the site directly to the browser), as opposed to finding them on Facebook.

      I suppose what I’m getting at is your website is your most important asset, in my opinion. And, I think, their day in the sun is constant, as websites evolve to incorporate better experiences, more engagement, and more dynamic. I don’t think that’s a “search-centric” viewpoint, but a “user centric” viewpoint. Your website allows for levels of engagement that a FB page could never touch. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with advertising your Facebook page, every company should be leveraging it. But, I still don’t think it’s the center piece on the table, and hasn’t earned that center piece status. As always, Terry, such as great comment!

  2. May 23 2011

    Great planet analogy, Tony.
    I agree with you, that the website has more to offer to both the company and the users. Facebook, and even Twitter, to a lesser degree, can contribute a great deal to engaging with users, but I see those as effective means of driving that engagement to the website, rather than as substitutes.
    And certainly, from the standpoint of organic searches, whether we like it or not, the search engines offer us more than social media in terms of findability (yeah, I know… that’s not a REAL word! ;))

    • May 24 2011

      Doc,

      Thanks for the great comment! Yes, I think using “substitutes” was a bit extreme for me label them as. But I’m about to have a “Springer” moment, for those of you familiar with it. :-)

      Social is a valuable asset for companies, big and small alike, and they should certainly be utilizing it. I think that Michelle Robbins (@MichelleRobbins) makes her argument successfully, to me at least, with these string of tweets, to the question of “Why Don’t You Agree With This Post”?:

      1) http://twitter.com/#!/MichelleRobbins/status/72724041051553792
      2) http://twitter.com/#!/MichelleRobbins/status/72727209609138176

      And, I think that’s the real answer. it’s brand-dependent. It’s who your particular campaign(s) are reaching out to: the demographics and segments.

      Some may find Facebook a great fit for what they want to accomplish, and find that it drives higher engagement, and conversions, back to the site. Some may find it works better through landing page promotion. If you want to do it right, run multiple campaigns for each market through different platforms (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, etc) and find out which one, for that particular segment and brand worked best.

      Thanks for the great discussion on the topic, I hope everyone walked away with something useful to discuss!

  3. May 24 2011

    Hi Tony – Rude of me not to drop a comment here – hope I’m not too late :)

    I don’t disagree entirely with your points, it’s just that I see the relationships as more of a flowchart than a solar system, with the different channels funneling users to a variety of actions that are all beneficial to brands.

    I’ve seen a number of “Facebook Isn’t Worth Your Time” posts this week (not what yours was, I know) that have frankly, shocked me. And they’ve made me wonder if the search marketers behind those posts have had access to large enough data sets from brands that are doing extremely well on Facebook.

    Again, and as you mention above, it’s not going to work the same for every brand, in every market segment. But neither does search/SEO :)

    My final thought – everyone I’ve spoken with – outside of the fishbowl of search and social media marketing – people that are actually in the trenches working with brands and artists – they have nothing but good things to say about how Facebook has driven engagement with customers/fans both on the platform and to the web site. Twitter however, not so much. Which is another topic altogether for ya ;)

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