Five years ago, everyone was talking about Facebook.
Now everyone’s talking about…Facebook. Yes, it lasted – and, according to today’s Times, it’s snapping at the heels of Google, which is apparently too busy snapping at the heels of Ford Motor Company (developing driverless cars, of all things) to notice.
So we know Facebook is important. We also know that if it were a country it would be the third most populated.
But it doesn’t mean you can close your website down and replace it with a Facebook fan page.
Facebook is not owned by brands, it’s owned by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, and he can change it at a whim.
There have been eight iterations of the site and it will probably change again significantly within a year. When this happens, many of us will swing by our favourite fan site, be it Coca Cola, Nike or MRM (full disclosure: MRM is not currently anyone’s favourite fan page, as such) and they’ll shriek: “Where’s my flipping stuff gone?”
If Zuckerberg were feeling particularly malevolent, he could remove your business entirely from Facebook and not have to explain why.
Building your online presence primarily on Facebook is like building your house on someone else’s land. Because you don’t own the bytes – Zuckerberg does.
Talking of bytes, like any huge website with zillions of users, Facebook could suffer ‘outages’ in the future. It went offline for at least 20 minutes just before Christmas. This could mean a lot of lost money to companies doing big business there.
And then there’s the credibility factor: people see a website as a sign of an established organisation, something tangible. It’s the shop window and can be dressed exactly as you want – how you know your customers want it to look. Facebook, on the other hand, is more like your car boot sale. Using someone else’s car.
Or how about all the info people put on websites that simply isn’t suited to Facebook fan pages where – let’s face it – marketing-style material is the norm? Can you really expect your investment contacts, for example, to have to get information on your company’s stock from Facebook?
And Facebook content isn’t particularly findable in search.
All that having been said, unlike Twitter, Facebook is here to stay (at least for the medium-term) because of the reams of content most normal users have invested in it (notes, films, photos etc). It’s how people are increasingly becoming used to experiencing the internet. So if you’re not there….well, you’re not there.
So use it as part of your marketing mix. But don’t think a fan page can be an adequate replacement for a website.
Michael Taggart is Head of Digital and Social at MRM- follow him on Twitter.