Friday, December 30, 2011

Why all the free ads for Facebook?

A while back I picked up a copy of the Evening Standard and was surprised to see Facebook and Twitter logos at the top of every page, suggesting readers follow ES on these two websites. And this is just an extreme example of what I’m seeing more and more. Ads on the telly and in newspapers no longer show the URL of the company’s website, but the URL of their Facebook page instead.

But the thing that confuses me is why big companies would choose Facebook as their main point of contact with their customers? Sure, social networks are the big thing at the moment and getting users to follow you or like your product might have some benefit, but there seem to be a number of downsides.

First, who owns all the data being collected about your customers? My guess is Facebook. Can you extract that data if Facebook decide they don’t want you anymore or you decide to move? I guess it’s probably possible via the Facebook API but it seems somewhat risky. And even if you do extract it, Facebook will no doubt keep hold of it as well.

Then there’s the question of ads. The company pages I’ve seen on Facebook seem to have the same ads as any other page. I’ve found no indication that companies get any of the income from those ads, so why drive traffic to Facebook so they can make money from your brand? And what if Facebook decide to show ads for one of your competitors?

Frankly it all seems a bit odd. Big companies have big IT departments and generally have their own websites, fully under their control. It is pretty simple to add some Facebook widgets to your own site and get integration that way which seems a more sane approach if you want to get hooked into Facebook.

For a one man band kind of company, I can see the sense in putting you web presence on Facebook, it’s a lot simpler and cheaper than building your own website, but for multi-nationals my prediction for 2012 is that this is something they do much less of.

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