A while ago, I was sitting and talking to one of my co-workers and they asked me a simple, yet interesting question: “What benefit do we get for having a Facebook presence?”
After being asked this question, I had to figure out the best way to respond. My common answer is that it depends on whether or not you feel that Facebook is the best place for you or your company to be. Not all social networks are for everyone. Some people may be better suited to be on sites like Myspace, Ning, or even using other applications like Plurk, Twitter, Pownce, blogs, Utterz, Viddler/YouTube, etc. You need to look at where your audience is coming from to best appeal to your core constituents.
However, that doesn’t answer the question…so what benefit can we get from simply having a Facebook presence? It’s rather difficult to truly assess that. You can set up a Facebook fan page or even a fictitious profile page (similar to the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival profile) or even a Facebook group, but the main return on investment that you could possibly get is brand promotion. You’re having people become your “fans” and in return you’re possibly creating brand advocates and even evangelists. These are probably the most powerful tool at your disposal as they will help attract more people to your cause.
Don’t think about Facebook as just another sounding board. It’s an extension of your brand. Yes, you may want instant gratification when you decide to introduce your company to social networks, but it’s not always about dollar and cents. The problem some people can’t quite get over is that it’s costing man-hours to keep these pages updated. No, it’s really not that expensive. If their job is devoted to working on online marketing, then it’s really their responsibility to undertake that assignment. You are monitoring the virtual realm for any mention of your company, but with respect to Facebook, it’s awfully simple to monitor. Honestly, you’re not going to get that much activity on your Facebook page, but if you have new products, news, thoughts, or wish to brainstorm with your advocates, then Facebook is a free sounding board to get your thoughts heard and to pick up new ideas.
So are Facebook pages worth investing the manpower to monitor and update for your company? Yes, I believe so. Are they worth anything besides brand promotion? Is there any other primary long-term objective that the marketing team should strive for? That appears to be the ultimate extension since more people are seeking out social networks for thoughts and insights into brands. You wouldn’t go to their main website because you know that it’s probably biased. However, if you’re on Facebook, at least you can help create more of a collaborative environment where you can help frame the message and have your fans pose their insights and problems while others will help resolve those issues on your behalf.
Long-story short…it doesn’t matter what the ROI is at this point. I believe that it’s more long-term brand promotion and community building. That interaction is what marketing is going towards. Am I wrong? Please feel free to disagree or comment.