Social Media Strategy

Facebook is not ‘Social Media’

April 18, 2011
Facebook Logo

Catchy title, right? Let me explain.

I received an email the other day from a good friend and associate that was passing on an article titled ‘Doubts remain for social ROI‘ and I thought I would dig in a little bit on this topic. First of all, I thought I might find some interesting statistics on how social programs were faring for different industries, brands, etc. Instead, the article singled out activity on Facebook Pages as the source of data to prove the lagging ROI on ‘Social Media.’

What’s the big deal? After all, Facebook is Social Media, right?

Facebook LogoYes, Facebook does indeed represent a significant amount of the social media landscape. However, it’s by no means the entire social ecosystem, and to elude to such a claim is misleading and can cause a lot of fear mongering amongst decision makers that are not well-versed in the nuances of this still emerging field of Marketing.

I’ve always had problems with the notion that Social Media equals Facebook and Twitter. As if a brand can create a Facebook Page and Twitter account and check ‘social media’ off the list. Of course, this is ridiculous, but I think articles like the one above run the risk of painting the picture that if one channel doesn’t work, then the entire field of social media is questionable.

The article leads off talking about social media investment and ROI, but quickly zeroes in on Facebook Fan pages for the rest of the data. It’s sort of subtle to an untrained eye. After all, there are some compelling statistics and anecdotal evidence of what makes content interesting to the end users. But the way this has been presented, it could easily be misconstrued as a harbinger of the demise of social media.

This isn’t the only article to come out recently casting doubts on social media. Another article on AdAge uses examples of Pepsi and Burger King’s failure to rebound from lagging sales, despite high-profile social media campaigns that got a lot of press for their boldness. Just like with any other case study, how can you possibly isolate one element of a brand’s communications strategy and blame (or credit) it for the entire trajectory of the brand?

These case studies get debated ad nauseum in the various trade publications, so I won’t waste your time or mine going down that road here. I do want to highlight the importance however of being very clear on what constitutes ‘social media’ and how its effectiveness is not as easy to determine as some articles might suggest.

Social media is shared content, not a specific channel of sharing.

It’s conversation.

It’s questions and answers.

It’s interesting and helpful information that people send to their friends.

It’s connections between people, brands, and other organizations.

It’s a way to listen.

It’s a way to respond.

It’s a way to help customers get to know you.

It provides occasions to promote relevant offerings.

And finally, I believe social media presents opportunities for a new way of conducting business.

Social media is more than Facebook pages.

Can you imagine a headline like ‘Doubts remain on Advertising ROI’ followed by statistics on local newspaper ads only? Seems silly, doesn’t it? As if the entire field of Advertising can be summed up by the effectiveness of one channel.

We need to be more responsible for how we talk about the dynamic field of social media. Not every tactic will prove itself with positive ROI, but tactics come and go. Strategic planning takes this into account, and ensures that brands can be nimble in the ever-changing landscape of marketing in social media.

What to you think? Should we give this much weight to statistics on Facebook Pages?

If you need help making sense out of your own social media programs, email me so we can talk.


  • Reply Lori Finnigan April 19, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Hey Brandon

    I like your viewpoint, especially the part about newspaper ads. You’ve done a great job explaining social media and its role in a business’ entire marketing strategy.

    Nice job Brandon!

  • Reply Lori Finnigan April 19, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Hey Brandon

    I like your viewpoint, especially the part about newspaper ads. You’ve done a great job explaining social media and its role in a business’ entire marketing strategy.

    Nice job Brandon!

    • Reply Brandon Sutton April 19, 2011 at 1:52 pm

      Thanks Lori. I appreciate your thoughts. This is one of those topics that I’ve always had a strong reaction to. ‘Social Media’ often gets over-simplified and the true meaning gets lost. It’s really about ‘Social Business’ if you get right down to it. Brian Solis does an excellent job of talking about this topic. Have you checked out his blog?

  • Reply Harry Hallman April 19, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Great thoughts Brandon. We often focus on the tool rather than the actual communications in marketing communications. There are hundreds of tools one can use to communicate, so it makes sense to pay attention to what you say, who you say it to and in the case of social media what they are saying to you.

    • Reply Brandon Sutton April 19, 2011 at 1:50 pm

      Exactly, Harry. So often, the part about listening to what customers are saying gets lost in the headlines. These conversations occur throughout the web, not just on Facebook. It’s like I mentioned in my guide to optimizing web content for social sharing, even if you don’t participate in certain networks, if your customers do, you must pay attention to these channels. Thanks for the thoughts.

  • Reply SusieBlackmon April 20, 2011 at 12:07 am

    Great points. I’m not a big Facebook fan but know I need a presence there. Twitter is much more valuable to me because of what I learn there. The ‘socializing’ aspects of Facebook certainly have their advantages; however, I don’t spend much time there. Thanks for your ‘food for thought.’

    • Reply Brandon Sutton April 20, 2011 at 2:31 am

      Thanks Susie. That’s the rub – the learning part. So many people think about social media channels as broadcast tools and overlook the immense value of listening and learning through them. There’s a goldmine of information for those who pay attention.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Reply Anonymous April 20, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    I don’t have a Facebook page for my business … um, shh, we know I still don’t have a live web site for my business … uh, anyway ….

    Facebook is my personal hangout. It’s more intimate for me to share there than on Twitter. I keep my friends list limited to people I know. That’s where I post pictures of my kids and silly stuff (more so than on my Twitter feed). It serves a different purpose. It’s very good for promoting local events — I can broadcast directly to my local friends, with an event invitation or not. But I primarily use it to catch up with folks, share stuff and entertain. I rarely talk about business there. My high school friends don’t care. LOL.


    • Reply Brandon Sutton April 21, 2011 at 1:13 pm

      Lori, you provide a great reminder that Facebook has so many uses, and we each have our own way we engage with it.

      Do you need a ‘talking to’ on getting your website going? If so, I will happily oblige. 😉

      • Reply Anonymous April 21, 2011 at 1:26 pm

        Getting closer to TWO sites — 1 will be a personal blog where I can babble and find my voice. The other will be the biz site. Working on new content, service rates and packages. I have Sarah and the CIP mentorship crew poking (supporting) me. There’s lots of good stuff brewing.

  • Reply Ann Ehnert April 21, 2011 at 2:09 am

    Great find! The original study definitely tries to hide the fact they are specifically discussing Facebook and try to blanket the study with the term “social”, which is a shame. You’re right – Facebook is not the only “social media” outlet out there. And although it shows that some marketers have doubts about the ROI for Facebook, a few important points should be addressed. It should also be noted that the social study was conducted overseas and the test group, although healthy in number, it is an extremely small sample when discussing the amount of individuals actively participating in social media.


    • Reply Brandon Sutton April 21, 2011 at 1:22 pm

      Thanks for the comment Ann. I did not catch the fact that the study was conducted overseas. That’s yet another reason that the article headline is misleading. It’s frustrating, because these kinds of headlines can really have a big impact on decision makers who don’t read the content carefully.

  • Reply social media application April 21, 2011 at 7:03 am

    First of all nice title it attracts and force to read , but facebook is a social media man and a top social media sites its not only for facebook pages its a big world of sharing things

  • Reply So what counts as social media? | MGT 489 January 9, 2014 at 5:46 pm

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