Facebook’s IPO: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Via pstracks.com

Today marks a new low in Facebook’s share value as the initial lock-up for employees ended and some key people left the company.

This has prompted a flurry of speculation about whether Facebook is doomed or not. I’m not going to add my arrow to said flurry, but I’d like to take a step back and ponder what this dive really means.

Because, believe it or not, it’s not because Facebook is bad for business. I know that, because, as a content developer for Constant Contact, I’ve interviewed dozens of small businesses and organizations that have seen some tremendous successes on Facebook.

There’s the bookbinder that made $15,000 from Facebook. The hardware store that made more than $30,000. The nonprofit that raised $10,000, the fundraiser that raised $600 from a Facebook campaign. The list goes on and on.

Businesses are getting used to Facebook. According to Facebook’s S-1 Filing in February of this year, about four million businesses have Facebook Pages.

The biggest obstacle is how consumers “Facebook” in the first place.

I, for one, don’t think of Facebook as a purchasing platform whatsoever. When I made a Facebook account, it was still exclusively for college students.

Since 2006, it has gone from a slick, cool, quasi-rebellious space to the place where moms post pictures of their kids.

That’s fine. But on either end of this spectrum, there’s no dollar signs involved. It’s not that businesses can’t get success from Facebook marketing, it’s that Facebook’s 900 million users are incredibly hard to mobilize.

Whatever people are using it for, it’s not purchases.

Via OnlineSchools.org

There is a sharp disconnect between the incredible statistics that Facebook can offer versus the likelihood of the user base responsible for said incredible statistics to actually take those stats in a direction that leads to money, instead of relationships, gossip, pictures, and news.

Facebook is doing a lot of things right, despite the bad press (social gaming & Instagram look especially promising). There are still businesses and organizations that are getting leads, sales, and donations every day from it.

The good

  • Facebook helps organizations reach a new audience. It’s the same as running a TV ad or a glossy, print ad in a magazine that doesn’t necessarily reach your Optimum Demographic: when you launch a Facebook Page and drive traffic there, you suddenly have a very new group of people who are aware of the business. 
  • The analytics are still unrivaled. Where else could an online calligraphy supplies company exactly pinpointcustomers who have specifically listed “calligraphy” as an interest? I talked to Simon Rous of Scribblers and he explained that Facebook has been hugely successful for brand awareness. In particular: 
  • Pages helps build a community. No other platform is quite as interactive as Facebook. Twitter is mostly limited to back-and-forth quips, Pinterest comments can get messy fast, and websites are static, one-way mirrors shining straight from a company’s headquarters to a consumer’s computer screen. 

The bad

  • Facebook seems to be losing core users. Facebook’s adolescent growth spurt seems to be at an end, at least in the United States. Unique visits to Facebookdropped by 4.6% in the past six months. 
  • Teens & young adults are seeking more socially savvy shores. Gen Z & Gen Y are using Tumblr & Instagram quite a bit. 42% of Tumblr’s users are under 25 and people speculate that Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram (and let’s not forget the potential lifting of the under-13 ban) was a play for the teen market
  • Facebook is general.If people are having difficulty dividing their time between social networks, they’ll spend more time on the ones that speak the most to them. Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest, the three emerging social media sites, cater to very specific niches (micro-blogging, mobile photos, photo collections) in a way that would be impossible for Facebook. 

The ugly

The solutions

Facebook isn’t going away, but it’s certainly not going to stay the same. While I’ve talked to a lot of people who have had success with Facebook marketing, I’ve talked to many that haven’t.

The biggest barrier in this case is the education gap. Facebook marketing assumes you know Facebook. Facebook assumes you know social media. Social media assumes you know the internet.

There is an entire dictionary’s worth of vocabulary involved with social media marketing that has effectively created a language barrier among business owners.

Facebook could solve this by aggressively offering free workshops and seminars across the country. Heck, that could even help with the gloomy unemployment statistics for millennials and I know we wouldn’t mind.

Facebook could also bring back Like-gating and, simultaneously, limit the number of Facebook Likes available to each user. That could make it much more important to get those Likes and give organizations the knowledge that they are some of the chosen ones.

If Facebook does adapt, it will still remain one of the most prominent social media sites.

First, though, it needs to acknowledge that it’s a grown-up company. Like many of Facebook’s once-exclusive, college-age users – such as myself – it’s time to acknowledge that the world of social media isn’t what it once was and to keep succeeding in this new world, some radical changes have to be made.

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