Facebook®. Starbucks®. Same Difference. (from the archives of the old AdTex Interactive Blog)

Both Are Free Hangouts, Both Are There to Sell You Something.

The most recent “Facebook to charge users” hoax created even more opportunities to tout my interminable “Content is Key” Social Media strategy. So many of my Facebook “friends” shared that ridiculous post about the gigantic (now over 800,000, mostly active, users) social network becoming a user-pay service (if they didn’t post a paragraph on their newsfeeds before midnight) that I felt the rare need to explain (via a brief newsfeed post on my personal profile) Facebook’s moneymaking strategy.

Here’s what I said: “For those of you seeing that newsfeed about Facebook becoming a “for-pay” service, note that IT IS A HOAX! It is highly unlikely that FB will ever need user funding. What most fail to grasp is that Facebook is about ADVERTISING! Those ads you see on the right of the page more than monetize operations. Notice that the ads seem to be for stuff in which you are interested? They are targeted specifically to you by the info YOU put in your profile. You made it public when you accepted the user agreement (that most of us don’t read). With over 800 million (mostly active) users to have advertising targeting to them, FB will never have to charge for users to “socialize”. While you are, you’re being bombarded…if only subliminally, by paid-for advertising.”

I’ve found that the easiest way to convey Facebook’s money model to many prospective small-to-midsize business clients is to liken FB to the “800-lb. gorilla” of coffee retailing, Starbucks. Both Starbucks and Facebook are FREE HANGOUTS. But make no mistake, the content with which you’re constantly bombarded at both, are craftily designed to separate you from some hard-earned bucks. You can park your tuckus in Starbucks and use the free wireless internet connection and soak up their climate control all day long. I don’t believe the employees are ever going to come over and insist you drop a couple of ducats for a cup of joe.

Well, why are they providing the free, unlimited wi-fi and letting you hang out at their establishment? In a word, CONTENT!

While “socializing”, checking emails or playing Angry Birds at Starbucks, you’re consistently being exposed to visual, aural and even olfactory media. “Media” is the old, “analog” word for the new, digital “CONTENT.” The marketing principle holds that you will eventually be overcome by the enticing aroma of Starbucks’ beverages, the ever-present logo, the consistent green-colored branding graphics and even the sounds of the in-store “radio” ads and those beverage machines. “Just keep sitting there, pal. You’ll soon give in and buy a delectable Pumpkin Spice Latte, scrumptious Panini or mouthwatering butter croissant.”

The same holds true with Facebook marketing. You can post, chat, “like”, “friend” and play CityVille 24 hours a day (and I believe there are people who do). Facebook will never need to charge you a cent. Those ads are reaching someone…maybe not you today, but someone, somewhere, sometimes. What keeps you on Facebook for so long? CONTENT!

Who is creating most of that content? You and your friends are! It’s a brilliant marketing scheme! The shared videos, links and not-as-effective textual newsfeeds keep you engaged with Facebook. The more content that captures your attention, the longer you linger on Facebook pages. The longer you’re there, the more you’re subjected to targeted ads. It’s the proverbial “Win-Win” for advertisers and especially Facebook.

GOOD CONTENT CREATION IS STILL A TOUGH SELL TO SMALL/MIDSIZE BUSINESSES

I marvel at marketing decision-makers’ reluctance or sheer inability to grasp the importance of effective content and the relationship-building nature of Social Media marketing. I know many businesses don’t want to pay someone to handle it for them. I covered that in my Social Media Marketing is Not Free” blog post. In my “A Client Lost…” post, I told how we lost a client who was, unwilling to work at it. Many of our prospective (I keep using “prospective”, because our few current clients are committed to the effective strategy we offer) clients know they need to utilize Social Media Marketing. But, even some who are seasoned traditional marketers, don’t know how or why (except for the staggering numbers, like the aforementioned 800,000,000 Facebook users). I always ask them “Are you considering Social Media Marketing to tell more people what you’re selling?” The answer is invariably “Yes”. My subsequent assertion that they are about to make a common and expensive mistake is met with emotional responses ranging from shock to indignation. I hope I effectively explained it in my “Don’t Tell…Them Anything” blog post.

Constantly telling your Facebook “likers”, Twitter followers and YouTube subscribers what you’re peddling is akin to the Starbucks employee frequently coming to your table to interrupt your socializing with annoying reminders about the stuff they’re selling. Such behavior in a “hangout” tends to run people away. That goes for Social Media, too. Modern interactive marketing requires a new way of thinking. Thought time consuming and sometime labor intensive, it’s relatively easy. Plus good guys like me give away loads of info about it in blog posts like this.

But, when you’re ready for the critical application of these strategies to grow your business, I know a great little interactive marketing agency that will save you some money.

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