What to do with Facebook?

September 17, 2010

Facebook - Will Businesses Engage?

OK, I’m a seasoned disbeliever in Facebook as a business-to-buiness marketing tool. Or am I? The last few weeks have made me reconsider how Facebook could work for companies, and, most importantly, whether it can – in any way – contribute to the bottom line.

I’ve been conducting a straw poll amongst clients. The opinions I have received have been interesting, and quite mixed.  “It’s completely unprofessional!”, “It could work as a way of connecting us to clients” (this from a media business), “What’s Facebook?”. OK, that last comment was a joke, but it’s not a joke that some clients still are not even Facebook users themselves.

The opinions and arguments expressed in this article are not meant for major consumer brands. For such businesses, Facebook is a major channel to connect with existing brand advocates and potential converts. In B2C marketing, treat your Facebook followers well and you’ll grow sales and understand far more about what makes them tick. In fact, there are now whole companies making a living from supporting brands’ reputations across social media networks.

Yet what if you’re selling aircraft parts to Boeing? Baking ingredients to Associated British Foods?  My current view is that Facebook may not be suitable, and may even be viewed as unprofessional. Editing services to film production companies? Maybe. Facilities houses around London are starting to use Facebook in this very personal business-to-business environment.

All of this raises some interesting issues surrounding privacy. How to separate our business and personal lives? How much do you want to reveal to business associates about your personal life? I was interested recently to see that someone I know, an accomplished author, now has two Facebook pages – one for her writing and one for her friends. Can we all bear to do this? What are the pros and cons? Does Facebook mean anything if we have two personas, or is this simply a better reflection of our real world selves? The person in a suit who goes to the office and the person in jeans who is digging up the garden? For now I’m keeping to one identity – but the Facebook gate remains closed.