Facebook is far from useless as a marketing tool, but the vast majority of businesses are failing epically when it comes to Facebook marketing. This is because they simply don't understand why people use Facebook in the first place.
A recent study investigated exactly that. The team of professors wanted to find out if people used Facebook for the same reasons they use the web at large, namely:
- Information seeking
- Interpersonal communication
- Passing time
The study found that, indeed people used Facebook for almost all the same reasons...except information seeking.
This is not a trivial difference. Looking for products and services to buy falls squarely under the heading of "information seeking." Very rarely can buying a product be considered a form of entertainment, self-expression, or communication, and it's probably not the best way to pass time either.
The absolute biggest reasons people used Facebook? Here's a surprise. Not for communication or self expression. Most people were using Facebook merely to pass time or for entertainment.
Yes, they were using Facebook because they were bored.
In a striking example, Mike of Blumenthals recently conducted a survey discovering that only 2.1 percent of people would seek out a lawyer using their favorite social network. This was ten times less than the number of people who would use a search engine, and five times less than the number of people who would use the Yellow Pages.
Yes, people still use those things made of dead tree and ink. And they use it more frequently to find lawyers than they do Facebook.
Businesses are apparently completely oblivious of this, unless they are masters of conversion. A recent BIA Kelsey study found that 42 percent of businesses see Facebook as a customer acquisition tool first and foremost. Only 31 percent saw it as a place to build awareness, and 19 percent as a place to build community.
If users are turning to Facebook for entertainment, it's most promising as a tool for customer retention, not acquisition. Certainly there is also the possibility for word-of-mouth spillover which will contribute to acquisitions down the road, but this has never been the social network's most promising use as a business asset.
Meanwhile, businesses ought to be concerned with the possibility that they may have already missed the bandwagon. Mainstream business is, of course, generally behind the curve. According to a study by ComScore, the usage of Facebook is in decline. Time spent on Facebook dropped 14 percent year over year in August. Worse still, the decline was strongest among teens and young adults. Ages 18 to 24 dropped usage 25 percent.
Ages 12 to 17? Their usage dropped a horrifying 42 percent. And as we all know, where the kids go, the adults follow.
In all likelihood, this is the result of Facebook losing its novelty and becoming a basic utility. It's difficult to imagine it vanishing, but it's starting to look a lot more like the refrigerator than the smartphone.
What's the lesson here? The same as always. Find out where you target customers are, and why they're there. Then find out how to be most useful to them in that context. Then figure out how to monetize.
Image credit: Dimitris Kalogeropoylos