Friday, 21 May 2010

The dangers of putting all your eggs in the Facebook basket

A couple of months ago Loic Le Meur posted a tweet. The founder of Le Web's assertion was that 10 years ago brands’ presence on the web was all about their websites, 5 years ago it was about Google and today it was about Twitter and Facebook. Our response was that we felt that today a brand's web footprint needed to be far wider than just Facebook and Twitter. We didn't get a reply, but as a digital heavyweight I doubt that Le Meur's thought was as narrow as the literal tweet suggested.

However it does highlight an issue that has become a serious concern in the past month, as the Facebook privacy row has exploded all over the web. There are plenty of brands who have ploughed a lot of resource into a very narrow Facebook channel, building huge (successful) presence and even changing their digital calls to action to point into Facebook and adopting Facebook Connect as the route to login. Given the growth of names around Facebook in the past 18 months on the face of it this make sense, however building such strong presence in one place is not necessarily about becoming more social, but actually about an extension of destination thinking that started with every brand on the planet rushing to open up shop on the web in the mid 90s.

There is a real danger in putting so much resource into one channel that is completely out of your control. The fact that people become fans on your Facebook page is great, but their interaction is still independent of your brand and entirely dictated by the terms of the channel in which you've chosen to exist, a fact that has been brought in to sharp relief with the Facebook privacy issue.

Now all of the above has to be taken with a pinch off salt against a backdrop of numbers that suggested last week that, a) the number of Facebook names had reached almost 500 million b) that visits to the site were up by 2% c) that the dwell time on the site was up 1.2%, a number that is already 4 times that of Google it's nearest rival in terms of daily visitors.

However, Facebook isn't the social web. It's a very big social media channel which requires it's own processes, governance, guidelines and forms of accountability. However brands must break out of extended destination thinking and go to where customers are, not rely on them to come to them. As we replied to Le Meur brand footprints need to be wide, it's important that you surf in many channels, test in many channels and be aware that at any time one channel could suddenly become irrelevant. After all remember Friends Reunited and Friendster.

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