Why Facebook Sucks For Reaching Your Audience

Capturing Community This is a guest post by Michael Silverman, author of Capturing Community.

Every day, thousands of small businesses across the world dump millions of marketing dollars into social networks. With the rise of successful social media measurement tools, targeting your audience as a marketer has become a more refined science.

Then again, who’s really listening?

When I open my browser and wander mindlessly to Facebook, I’m not always sure what I’m looking for. Chances are a good number of people who liked your page act the same way. As connections between people and brands grow, newsfeeds are flooded with new, sometimes unrelated information threatening to steal your thunder.

How do you make your brand stand out in a stream of white noise? More importantly, how do you draw customers to your brand page to play on your turf? Engaging with a status update is one thing; having a meaningful conversation with few distractions is another.

For smaller consumer-oriented businesses with thin resources, you have a choice. You can spend all of your time and energy on creating a Facebook presence that focuses on high engagement. But just because a customer or potential customer comments on your status update doesn’t mean they’ll return to engage in meaningful conversation (or buy your product or services, for that matter).

Or, you can bypass the noise and engage your audience in a targeted venue, where conversations happen organically and audience members are receptive to your message. Niche online communities fit the bill here. If one doesn’t exist where you need it, you have the ability to create one of your own.

Social Networks Are Not the Same as Online Communities

Marketing professionals tend to lump social networks and online communities into a shapeless mass called social media. Those same marketers tend to focus more energy on Facebook and Twitter because they can be sure their audience lives on these networks.

Wouldn’t you rather be sure your audience is hearing what you’re saying and engaging in a productive dialogue? It’s clear that true brand impact is measured by how often your audience interacts with your content—not by how many people like your brand page on Facebook.

Online communities narrow the focus of the conversation. They keep members on topic. They encourage networking and interaction between people who may never have met but share passions about the same subjects. And an important reason why they’re more effective than social networks is that they are venues specifically branded for these purposes.

Think about it this way: Would you ever throw a party in a library? Cultural inclination and logic tell us that, no, we most certainly would NOT throw a party in a library, go see rock music at a funeral home, or build a chair in the middle of a congressional meeting.

Venues have a way of invoking strong emotions that help shape our perspective on acceptable and unacceptable interaction. These emotions are tied to visual, aural and cultural cues. For that reason and others, Facebook and LinkedIn satisfy different roles in the personal and professional lives of their users—mainly, networking based on real-world connections. Online communities, on the other hand, focus conversation down to the things that matter most to your audience, greatly increasing the frequency of new, valuable connections and conversations.

The B2B Conundrum and How One Online Community Solves It

For businesses in the B2B realm, Facebook presents an even greater challenge. Is the venue right for the conversation? Many marketers find it difficult to facilitate meaningful B2B conversations in a personal environment like Facebook.

They turn to LinkedIn or Twitter. Both venues provide B2B value—but we meet the same obstacles. How do you stand out against hundreds of related or unrelated brands and contacts competing for that same mindshare? How do you know your audience uses these universal networks to seek out the information you’re readily providing?

Let’s take a look at Built In Chicago, for example. Focused on connecting Chicagoland tech entrepreneurs and professionals, the niche community site recently made the transition to Drupal to handle its explosive growth. But how did it get so big in the first place?

The answer is simple: Built In Chicago is specific to geographic and topic-based limitations. By filtering out the white noise, the community is left with only the most valuable content and members. The site has found success connecting tech recruits with companies; taking the conversation offline to great networking events; and building a foundation of direct feedback to young entrepreneurs.

The most enriching interaction and networking happen within the walls of the community site. Developing a presence on sites like Built In Chicago is much more effective than appealing to your audience over Facebook. And if your niche doesn’t have a strong online community, you have the opportunity to create it. The same concepts apply for a B2C audience.

Any marketers out there finding more success in targeted communities than on Facebook?

  • John

    Excellent article Michael. I am planning on building a community that focuses on workplace safety for craft breweries. I was thinking I would start with a Linkedin group. Would you advise an online forum instead?

  • I tend to agree. Facebook is still effective for advertising. But if you are looking to build an audience that actually listens it is best to funnel that traffic away from Facebook to your site or at least focus your efforts elsewhere were the noise isn’t so high and the topics more specific to your niche.

  • I cannot agree with you more. My question is usually what happens after your customers click the like button on Facebook? Targeted online communities is the way to go. Thanks for the insight

  • With the rise of successful social media measurement tools, targeting
    your audience as a marketer has become a more refined science.

  • Chicago-based Duo Consulting, Michael Silverman has headed up a number
    of online community development projects for 15 years. He just launched
    the book on online communities, 

  • There’s a lot of noise on Facebook and people typically use it to connect with friends and family.  Facebook should be a part of your strategy but you don’t want to put all of your eggs into the Facebook basket.  In social media, niche social networks are often more effective.  

  • Good post, Michael; however, I have a couple questions. How does your mindless wondering on Facebook equate to what everyone else does when they are logged in? Affinity and brand loyalty weren’t mentioned in respect to Facebook and a users attention span either. 

    Also, likes are a huge indicator of brand impact even if there is 0 engagement with that page’s content, so I wouldn’t discount that. Don’t get me wrong, engagement is good, but that is based on community management, and not on where you community is hosted on the web. With the shear amount of time FB users spend logged in the only logical solution for community would be a FB app or a an that integrates FB, and not a stand-alone web property. 

  • Michael Silverman

    Chris – thanks for the feedback.  I agree that there are a lot of people on Facebook – but I have not found many active communities built within that platform.  If you know of some, please point them out.  Also, collecting “Likes” is different then measuring engagement.  Very different.  One is not better then the other – but when speaking of Capturing Community engagement is key.

  • Michael Silverman

    Thanks for your comments John.  Regarding your question, if the audience you are targeting is on LinkedIn – than it may make sense to start the group there and try to gain some traction (mainly identifying passionate members, but also honing in on discussion topics and group goals) – then it might make sense to move the conversation to a Community or forum that you create – to have the potential to “own” the space where the conversation is happening.

  • Robert Butler

    Micheal, I liked your article and wholeheartedly agree with you.  There are so many (literally thousands of them) special interest forums which cater directly to the interests of the groups you would want to engage if you’re a business owner.

    There are special interest forums on every topic from carpet cleaning to automotive car washing equipment.  I know this because these are the communities we engage for our customers.  They are much more effective at reaching your target audience.  The largest hurtle in my opinion to overcome acting as a public relation agency for our customers is relating to these communities simply because you have to be a carpet cleaner or a car wash owner in order to even begin to understand their interests.

    I find that over all they are just people like anyone else and if you’re creative you can find ways to communicate and insert yourself into these communities on behalf of the customers you represent.

  • But just because a customer or potential customer comments on your
    status update doesn’t mean they’ll return to engage in meaningful
    conversation (or buy your product or services, for that matter).

  • With the rise of successful social media measurement tools, targeting
    your audience as a marketer has become a more refined science.

  • This is a great point, Michael.  Wondering your preferred method to find the right niche communities.  Just online detective work?  Or is there a method?

  • With the rise of successful social media measurement tools, targeting
    your audience as a marketer has become a more refined science.

  • And if your niche doesn’t have a strong online community, you have the
    opportunity to create it. The same concepts apply for a B2C audience.

  • For smaller consumer-oriented businesses with thin resources, you have a choice.

  • As connections between people and brands grow, newsfeeds are flooded
    with new, sometimes unrelated information threatening to steal your
    thunder.

  • you draw customers to your brand page to play on your turf? Engaging
    with a status update is one thing; having a meaningful conversation with
    few distractions is another.

  • Insofar as we’re talking about B2B communications, you’re definitely correct.  Businesses use their facebook pages to reach “fans,” not seek new working relationships.  LinkedIn and even Twitter are far more valuable for that.
    That being said, FB definitely can be great for reaching a purely consumer audience, especially if you’ve got fitting products.  If you sell stuff to the younger crowd, I don’t see why you WOULDN’T be using facebook as much as possible.

  • Ooops. Not me. I have seen more success in Facebook (and on Linkedin). Facebook can be a great channel if you know how to use it, have clear, measurable goals, and publish content of interest to a relevant audience. Oh, sure, it helps if you have a sexy topic too, that folks search for online (using the Facebook search feature) or that others will share (the real value of Facebook) for you. Who cares about “likes”? I don’t. Shares are where the love is.

    Keep up the good work, Michael. 🙂

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  • Engaging with a status update is one thing; having a meaningful conversation with few distractions is another.

  • Developing a presence on sites like Built In Chicago is much more effective than appealing to your audience over Facebook.

  • Chances are a good number of people who liked your page act the same way.

  • Targeting your audience as a marketer has become a more refined science.

  • Gucci Reyes

    As connections between people and brands grow, newsfeeds are flooded
    with new, sometimes unrelated information threatening to steal your
    thunder.

    http://www.drphilhaeck.com/

  • Selene Fierro

    Every day, thousands of small businesses across the world dump
    millions of marketing dollars into social networks. With the rise of
    successful social media measurement tools, targeting your audience as a
    marketer has become a more refined science.

    http://www.videomarketingrobot.com/