On Saturday a group of members from the Edupreneurs Club got together in a Google+ Hangout. Initially I thought we would be talking about the different online payment systems and the need for platforms as a middle man or better put to put the middle man out, but a big chunk of our talk was dedicated to Facebook and if it is worth putting time and effort into the social network.
I guess that I was surprised how little our community of Edupreneurs like/respect FB. I too have serious concerns about the value of FB, but is it simply that we have not learned how to effectively use it?
Mau Buchler from Tripppin wrote
After the G+ hangout in which we trashed platforms and expressed our disdain for FB as a marketing tool, I got to thinking: FB is a platform, but we seem to fail in using it as a marketing tool for education because, in part, that’s not what its operational structure was built for. Nevertheless, it works pretty well for what it was built for: sharing info.
and Jason Levine aka Fluency MC commented
Underestimating the power of FB is a dangerous thing, indeed…
As you can see, we got a mixed bag of comments around Facebook and its impact on our online teaching businesses. So let me add my two cents to the stack.
First of all, I think we need to step back and ask ourselves: what is the reason we are using Facebook. I have the feeling that many edupreneurs are afraid to say “I want to make money.” – but if this is the reason you are on Facebook with a page, group or personal profile then the measurement for Facebook’s efficiency is what ends in your pocket or PayPal account.
If you got thousands of likes / fans but you are not able to sell something to these people, then Facebook does not deliver and probably makes no sense to spend time = money on. As André Klein pointed out for him the Facebook conversion sucks (pardon my French) and I can state the same. A like on a picture or video or survey does not convert into cold cash hence if making money is your goal, Facebook fails.
Let’s think about those likes for a second. Firstly, most people on Facebook don’t take a qualified decision before they click the like button. It’s like people on Twitter who follow thousands of people – it is impossible for them to actually know what is going on in their stream. And if people like 100 or more brands / pages on Facebook you can imagine what their news stream looks like. Your message = new article / video or what ever simply get buried underneath an avalanche of kitten pictures, inspirational quotes and marketing talk. If you don’t get spammy and post an update every five minutes there is no realistic chance that your message gets through. Plus Facebook only shows your update to a part of your fans which again lowers your chances.
This means only your core group of true fans who visit your page or group “by hand” are the ones who count here. And I can say that for my 2150 Deutsch Happen fans it boils down 25 true fans = 1%. If I add the 4800 subscribers of the Deutsch Happen YouTube channel to the total number it only gets worse.
And even if you set your goals lower and “only” want to drive traffic to your website or blog Facebook often does not deliver, either. And it’s obvious as Facebook does not want their users to leave the site. FB has done everything possible to train users not to feel the need to leave the platform in order to get what they want on the Internet. Hence, the winner is always Facebook – you create and deliver the content and Facebook is profiting. The return for you and your brand is marginal.
Does that mean you should call it a wrap and leave Facebook? No, basically you can’t as everyone who is not on Facebook today automatically seems to be kind of weird. Also, it is important to stake out your claim in the social media landscape. Even if you are not planning to use it right away it is important that the account belongs to you. A good example is the evolution Google went through in the past months. Hangouts did not exist a year ago and on Saturday we had our Edupreneurs Club meeting on it. Linking it to the E-Teachers Academy YouTube account then allowed me to stream it live and record the talk with only one click. All because I secured the different social media assets (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube & Google) years ago.
Hence, even if Facebook is not performing the way you actually want it to you cannot risk to do nothing. But you need to decide how much work you are willing to put into the social network risking that it might never play a major role for your business.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about Facebook’s potential to create a true world currency with Facebook credits. And though they dropped those credits in favor of third party payment options I still think that it is possible that Facebook can become an e-commerce powerhouse. All it takes are some big brands that train their customers to buy via Facebook which also means that the payment process needs to become far more frictionless, similar to Amazon’s “One Click” payments.
As soon as this happens people will also shop around for other offers, e.g. the stuff you offer via the social network. That’s why I started the experiment with André Klein and set up a market page for my Deutsch Happen project.
To sum this up: in most edupreneurial use cases Facebook stinks as it has no interest in sharing its user base with you. Likes are vanity numbers that basically mean nothing when it comes to true engagement and sales. Nevertheless, Facebook is still a crucial part of your social media marketing mix, just don’t get high on the numbers and split your bet / time on other tables as well. And always put the biggest chunk on your own table / website. If you make the rules you will always win.
In my next post I will talk about social proof and how these Facebook likes might be not as useless as they appear to be after finishing with this post.
Below you can watch the recording of the Edupreneurs Club Hangout.
Picture by The Jenson Society, NY, 1910 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons