Matt White examines the growing trend for businesses to market their Facebook presence in preference to their website.
A recent article in Brand Republic concerning the shift by businesses from traditional websites to social media pages, such as Facebook, left me with more questions than answers.
The facts put forward by the article suggest that social media pages would replace branded websites within 5 years. The case in point is rum brand Bacardi, whose unique website visitors fell 77% between 2009 and 2010. Bacardi is now reportedly shifting up to 90% of its digital spend to its presence on Facebook.
Certainly it is true to say that we are seeing Facebook used as the lead online destination for a number of consumer brands – one only has to look at their adverts to see that this is the case.
The arguments put forward by these brands are that Facebook is the primary destination for their target audience and it is easier for their consumers to engage via a Facebook page than it is through a corporate website. This reasoning seems sound enough.
In order for leading brands to move fully away from traditional websites, however, some barriers need to be negotiated. Below are some key issues that are not outlined in the article:
• SEO is generally regarded as a very important part of online presence. Brands would need to be able to fully optimise their social media pages. A Google search for Bacardi reveals the Facebook page is not on page 1, but the website still occupies top spot.
• Ownership of content is another key issue. For example, if you capture data, who owns the data? The branded Facebook or Twitter pages are still owned by Facebook and Twitter, not the brands themselves. The implications of this are an entirely separate debate in itself!
• If social media is to be the main online presence, brands need to have the confidence to allow certain aspects of control to pass to the consumer – branded websites have the peace of mind of 100% content management.
With this in mind, I predict the majority of brands, particularly those who market B2B, will increasingly use Facebook in support of their branded website – but I can’t see Facebook replacing it.
The reason you cannot make generalisations is a matter of budget and what is being marketed to whom.
'Super-brands’ such as Coca-Cola and Nike have a ready fan base of millions of people who will ‘like’ their Facebook pages and who, in turn, will receive their updates. Furthermore, they have the budget to market the page and create engaging material on a regular basis to reach their social audience.
There are, however, many industries where, no matter how innovative businesses are in their use of Facebook and social media in general, the available fan base will always be small. This is before we come to the cultural (or age related) issues of business leaders not seeing social media as an appropriate outlet to promote their business to existing and prospective customers.
Answering the question posed in the Brand republic article – is there a role for branded websites in the social media age? - my response is a resounding yes. I predict that 99% of businesses will still use a branded website in 5 years time. What we may see is more and more campaign specific social media pages in both the B2B and B2C sectors, and this is the trend that needs to be watched.
The Marketing Eye is gearing itself up to be able to advise clients appropriately.
You can visit The Marketing Eye’s Facebook pages and see how we are using it in our business at www.facebook.com/themarketingeye.
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