'Panic ensues as Facebook's News Feed changes direction! Doom and gloom for businesses everywhere!' Are you worried? Should you be? Well...
History repeats itself. As a reminder, we’ve gone through this with Google… with Apple… now Facebook. And we’ll most likely see this happen with Amazon.
What are business owners, entrepreneurs and marketing agencies to do in the face of ever-evolving platform processes and algorithm changes? If you’re beholden to a platform for business, you’re in the wrong business.
Facebook News Feed changes. Businesses need to follow suit
Social media and eCommerce mall platforms like Amazon, Alibaba (and now Walmart) provide a low-cost entry point for businesses to get going.
Once you start acquiring customers from these platforms, you should begin planning an exit strategy. In fact, it should already be a part of your growth plan from the very start. Why?
Reliance on any one channel for acquiring customers is a mighty dangerous gambit. Technology evolves at an exponential rate and as such, so do buyer’s habits.
Let’s look at some statistics:
- 81% of consumers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by their friends’ social media posts. (Forbes)
- Consumers are 71% more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals. (Hubspot)
- 53% of consumers recommend companies or products in tweets, with 48% following through to purchase those products or services. (SproutSocial)
- 78% of consumers say companies’ social media posts impact their purchases. (Forbes)
- Conversions increase 133% when mobile shoppers see positive reviews before buying. (Bazaarvoice)
Social media has come to influence the general public’s thinking. This is reason #1 why there’s been so much discussion on the effect (good or bad) that Facebook supposedly had on the recent presidential election.
Unfortunately, that event has come back to haunt Facebook.
"If you’re beholden to a platform for business, you’re in the wrong business."
Facebook's free but...
Though the official reason for the change is in “helping you have more meaningful social interactions,” the more likely reason probably has to do with the recent negative press. And negative press frightens investors quite a bit.
These platforms may offer a free service, but let’s be honest. They’d be a footnote in 21th century history if they’d stayed that way.
Facebook’s revenue generating ad platform is in hot demand and a major competitor of Google’s Adwords. If there’s even the slightest doubt that ad relevance is tainted, untrustworthy or unreliable, advertisers will spend major marketing dollars elsewhere.
This article in the NY Times highlights a growing issue related to 'fake news' and the ease of creating numerous fake accounts. Yes, search engines can be scammed as well, but Google has been through the ringer already. They've put time in over the years to limit (though not entirely eliminate) devious exploitations. Social media has only just begun to take steps in addressing these concerns.
In fact, Facebook may now be accelerating the cleanup process as they've since opted to ban all advertising related to cryptocurrency. This move may be in response to some of the recent criminal acts related to the blockchain technology. Facebook's motivations are inherently their own so pinpointing a 'what' and 'why' right now is just mere speculation.
Unfortunately, it was also recently reported that the number of daily Facebook users dropped in the fourth quarter of 2017. Whether this is 'the beginning of the end' or just a technical glitch, it'll be up to Mark Zuckerberg and his team to right the social media ship.
"Reliance on any one channel for acquiring customers is a mighty dangerous gambit. Technology evolves at an exponential rate and as such, so do buyer’s habits."
What should businesses do… really?
In using these social media platforms, a growing company has to consider the following things:
First, companies will need to assess cost, not only in regards to pricing, but the cost associated with production, maintenance, training, and any miscellaneous things that come up.
Most of these platforms are free or very low cost… in the beginning. That’s how they get you hooked. Then the pay to play comes in when you want to increase visibility. Basically, they pit you mano a mano against the competition. Survivor takes all.
Determine the acceptable risks for the long-term in regards to integration, accountability, flexibility and user satisfaction. Some of these platforms don’t last.
What happens if you invest all your promotional time and money, build up a sizeable audience, then the company running the platform goes bankrupt? That’s right. You ‘lose a turn’ and return to go.
I believe this to be crucial for all business owners. This tends to be the sore spot when users of a platform see changes which are out of their control. The problem is, there are things that are always going to be out of your control, given the fact that they were never in your control.
It’s not your platform. You’re a tenant and they’re the landlord. Follow the rules or be evicted.
No one likes a solution that’s difficult to use. Most platforms like Facebook are easy to use. This obviously increases user adoption.
But ease of use and user capabilities are two different things. Why adopt a platform if the capabilities are of no use to a business, even if it’s easy to use?
Does the platform take the place or combine the functionality of other programs or even potentially someone’s job tasks? If so, the investment might be worth it. Yet, caution must be observed.
Consolidating may take time, it may cause future issues not thought of at the time or the position eliminated may have bridged one or more other processes not taken under consideration.
Bottom line: Platforms evolve as newer technology develops. Business owners can and should use Facebook as part of an omni-channel marketing campaign strategy to drive business. Yet, to remain firmly in the driver's seat, that strategy must center around a core company branded entity.
Regardless, no one ever is really and truly in control. Such is life.