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3 Facebook myths dispelled

April 27, 2010

A common theme in my discussion with colleagues about digital strategy is a disdain for Facebook. Some marketing executives and even some marketing managers I have spoken to refuse to develop any kind of presence on Facebook for a variety of reasons. Considering that Facebook now has more traffic than Google, it would seem a mistake to dislike Facebook so much that you would refuse to use Facebook as a key drive-to tactic, if not a strategic marketing venue.

Hitwise data showing Facebook overtaking Google in monthly traffic.

Source: Experian Hitwise US

The most interesting thing about this graph is not that Facebook has overtaken Google in traffic, but the rate of traffic growth for Facebook. Google’s graph is relatively flat compared to Facebook. If Facebook continues to grow at the rate shown in the graph, It will double Google’s traffic in less than a year. If you can’t bring yourself to overcome your disdain for Facebook now, you certainly won’t have a choice in a year. Face it: Facebook presence is table stakes. It’s time to overcome the disdain. To help, I will debunk the myths that commonly lead to the disdain.

1. Facebook is for kids: According to Ken Burbary, around 10 million of the 96  million US Facebook users are under 18. The majority are between 18 and 25. But 22 million are between 26 and 34 years of age.  18 million are between 35 and 44. 14 million are between 45 and 54. And there are as many Facebook users 55 and up as there are under 18. If you study Burbary’s statistics, you will find that the Facebook demographic is just about right for marketers who want to grow their business into the next generation of leaders. And it’s not too bad for this generation of leaders: More than half of all US Facebook users are between the ages of 26 and 54.

2. Facebook is a privacy nightmare for its users: Facebook has had it’s share of faux pas in this area. But the recent announcements at the F8 Conference in San Francisco pave the way for a far more robust privacy management system than Facebook has had in the past. The day after it’s announcement, Facebook put a link on everybody’s home page that gave them access to all their applications. For the first time, I was able to set all my applications to the level of sharing I want. In some cases, such as very personal tastes, I wanted the applications I have used to just share results with friends. But in other cases, such as my Myers Briggs profile or my IQ, I wanted friends and networks to see who I am, in case of future opportunities. It took me 10 minutes to set all the sharing levels I wanted. The result is, I feel I have more privacy than ever on Facebook.

Apparently Facebook users don’t seem to mind the lack of privacy if their numbers keep growing exponentially. But If you still have doubts, see Mashable to dispel this myth. They show how easy it is to control your privacy settings in Facebook. With the new Facebook, privacy should not be an issue any longer.

3. Facebook is not for business: Sure a lot of Facebook posts are strictly personal. But have you ever noticed how many business conversations have a personal component? When you stop to think about it, we trust people much more when we know them at least a little. Facebook provides a venue to get to know colleagues on this personal level, and to trust them more. This trust cannot be bought, it must be earned. But it cannot be earned without the opportunity. Facebook provides that opportunity.

Last year we ran a pilot at IBM with one of our marketing campaigns in which we built a Facebook fan page and assigned a point person to write posts, gain fans and regularly update the page with news. Within four months, the campaign dominated Google with eight out of 10 positions on the first page. How did that happen? We branded the terms on Facebook. Fans wrote interesting blog posts about the solutions we branded. And link equity in Google exploded. Not only were we getting hundreds of referrals per week from Facebook, we were getting thousands of referrals from Google. Facebook marketing worked better than any single tactic we used at IBM in 2009.

There really is no reason not to start working on your Facebook strategy now. Facebook provides numbers and growth that simply cannot be ignored. Beyond sheer numbers, it offers deeper engagement than any single drive-to tactic. Through Facebook fan pages, companies can connect with potential customers where they like to hang out, develop trust, and drive them to relevant Web experiences on their domains. This is the kind of deep engagement that few digital marketing tactics can match. And with the new Open Graph features, Web content strategists can now integrate their sites more closely with their Facebook fan pages than ever before.

No, I’m not a shill for Facebook. It just irks me to have to keep repeating these arguments at digital strategy meetings.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 27, 2010 1:43 pm

    Great stuff here!

  2. April 27, 2010 2:59 pm

    Thanks for citing my Facebook demographics post. Since I originally published it, the numbers have only grown. Facebook now has over 400 million users globally, with approx 120 million in the US. The age group trends remain consistent though. It’s not younger people in the US fueling Facebook’s growth.

    You can always get the latest FB statistics from their site:

    • April 27, 2010 5:17 pm

      Thanks Ken. Great information.

      Also, thank you for not complaining about misspelling your name :-). I’ve fixed that.


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