Facebook: Not the Silver Bullet You Think It Is

I received a call from Natasha, a San Diego-based marketing agency underling, whose company specializes in marketing high-tech medical devices to the Business to Business (B2B) markets. She wanted to talk to me to see if I’d be a good fit for handling their Facebook advertising.  Her bosses had fired their last consultant after what I gathered was only a month (a week of results, a few weeks of nothing). Now they wanted someone new.  Red Flag #1.

My first response to Natasha, was asking her why it didn’t work before. She couldn’t answer. Then I asked her about what research had been done to prove that Facebook was even the right tool. She couldnt answer that either. She gave me some info about how the clients wanted their web sites to get more traffic, their fan pages to get more fans and that was pretty much it. Reg Flag #2.

Seeing both red flags, I offered her education and gave the message that I would not be interested in working with them, but that I would be happy to point them in the right direction and work with them there.  I told her that Facebook marketing is best suited to the Business to Consumer (B2C ) markets, where there is a social element already present offline (eg. clothing lines, big consumer brands, restaurant chains, local restaurants, salons, clubs, venues, etc.).  The value of fan pages is not accumulation of numbers of fans, rather, it is the interactions with each one and the ability to give them all something they want/like, whether or not they interact with you.

Close camera shot of a computer monitor with Facebook open. The point isn’t even to drive traffic to the web site, it’s to drive consumer satisfaction and demand via a social infrastructure.  The sales will come later.  But the key is in having the right model to begin with.  The hard truth is that not every business or business type is ideally suited to the juggernaut of all social mediums, Facebook (“hey Twitter, when is your movie coming out?  Oh wait, that’s right…”).

To determine if a business is going to find success marketing or advertising on Facebook, you need to understand what opportunities are presented and to whom.  Assuming that Facebook (or any tool) is the one-size-fits-all silver bullet of marketing would be a very bad idea.   The simple fact is that there is no such thing.  To properly promote a company of any type, you need to understand what it is (first) and then understand the audiences that await you at the different options.

I advised Natasha that for a B2B targeted campaign for medical devices in the high tech market, you need to be able to find the markets that would actually want those devices.  They’re out there (and in great number) – but where?

My suggestion was LinkedIn.  While it’s not as popular as it’s counterpart (Alexa.com ranks it as #25, versus Facebook’s #2), it’s B2B focused and targeted and when advertising, you need to pinpoint precisely who you want to get.  Think of it like this:  if your business or your customer has a very specific customer profile, then wouldn’t you like to be able to target that specific profile?

With Facebook advertising,  you can target some good things, but even looking at the control panel, you can tell that Facebook is a B2C tool.  It gives you the options of age, location, income, education and a few others.  That’s it.  These are the demographic tools of businesses that don’t need much more info than that to find their ideal customer, such as the examples I listed above.  When you need more than that, you need a far more robust tool that is going to offer you more.

Facebook is the promotion solution-du-jour, and if you read my blog often, you know that I’m one of it’s bigger fans (pun intended!).  Despite that, I urge you to understand what the tool is, what it isn’t, and what is real potential holds for you.    If you match your promotion tool to your specific customer pre-qualification needs, you’ll be much better off.

While Facebook holds untold opportunity for a vast quantity of businesses, it also holds untold loss and frustration for a host of others.  The reason is all in it’s lack of specificity.  Contrastingly, LinkedIn has the opposite situation: very specific, great for specific B2B enterprises, and perhaps not as great for the less-specific B2C ones.  If you’re on LinkedIn, you’ll note the very specific ads they have that are usually tailored to be something you’d actually consider.  You’ll also note the lack of big consumer brands, and related products.

At the end of the call, Natasha awkwardly thanked me for my time, and having gotten the message that I wasn’t interested in working with them, she wanted to confirm that I wasn’t interested in their business.  I responded by telling her that I would be interested in helping them with LinkedIn marketing, but wouldn’t be comfortable being held responsible for using a tool to advertise that isn’t the right tool to begin with.  I assure you – she wasn’t prepared for that response, and thusly, hurried off the phone.

My hope is that she went to her boss and discussed the new-found expertise so they could really steer their clients in the right direction, but my expectation is that she did not.  After all, what underling wants to tell their boss that they’re wrong?

Now, this is where your business comes in.  If you have a B2B business, you very well could see a positive return on your investment with Facebook marketing or advertising, but you have to do your homework to ensure it’s a good fit.

For some companies, they do exceptionally well.  They reach out with humor, make people feel good, and teach them things that they need to know so that when that B2B need arises, they know who to call.  Others will fall horribly flat and be grossly disappointed in the lack of results (and the noted lack of money in their wallet).

Your success will be determined by understanding and research, not blind excitement for the flavor of the month.  Remember MySpace?  Facebook may not always be king, just like MySpace got dethroned.

Start with these concepts:

  • Ask yourself who your customer is – how specific can you get?
  • Do the tools you’re considering offer enough specificity to ideally reach new prospects?
  • How many prospects does it take to get a new customer over X time period?
  • What will you do to manage each new prospect that comes in?
  • How will you measure your return on your investment, and in what time frame?

Just remember to regard your options with a critical eye, always keeping your eye on the details and you’ll do just fine.

End note:  it always concerns me when anyone calls me and seeks:

  1. a guaranteed result (impossible)
  2. a puppet that will blindly do what the client asks (especially when they happen to be wrong) and
  3. a bargain (you get what you pay for!).

While Natasha didn’t ask for a bargain, she did inquire of my rates in the first 2 minutes of the call, which indicated that’d be a deciding factor (big mistake).  Clearly the ingenue was doing the bidding of her boss, and having confessed to being on the team for less than a month, it makes me wonder if her boss really had much to offer to their clients if he had the lack of insight to task such an important job to a new underling that quite obviously didn’t know what to ask, how to ask, or to realize that a job done expertly that actually WORKS is worth whatever fee charged.   These last thoughts were my final red flags.

The consultant you want is the one that will be blunt and tell you that guarantees do not exist in marketing, one that will not be a puppet and do your bidding, but will instead tell you when you’re on the wrong path and offer an alternative solution that will better fit your needs, and yes, will charge appropriately for their expertise.

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About the author : Vision Advertising

Vision Advertising is a full-service marketing agency enhancing the online brand presence of business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies across the US. We focus on providing custom marketing services to address unique client needs, customer profiles, and budgetary concerns, created in-house by our team of skilled marketing specialists. This author profile is used for deattributed posts or when content is posted to this blog without comment.