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Attention Advertisers: Facebook Is Not for You

Visa Branded Facebook Page

Visa Branded Facebook Page

Lost in the Facebook privacy and security hooha was another change the popular social networking site made to its operations. Companies and advertisers can no longer create custom landing pages that force visitors of their Facebook pages to view them first. Companies can still create custom pages, but they must be added as a tab that users click to visit.

Companies with official pages can still add custom HTML to the left-hand sidebar via an application that asks or urges users to visit their custom tab. But no one can be dumped to a custom page straight away.

There was some outcry from advertisers and corporate entities following this move, as there is with any change the site enacts. Any platform with so many users can expect some level of discontent whenever the familiar is eschewed and new tactics are put in place. But in this case, I’m inclined to side with the “Tough cookies” crowd.

I’ll leave the arguments about how Facebook’s privacy policy affects the relationship between producers, advertisers and consumers to MoveOn.org and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Being on Facebook is voluntary, and there is no reasonable expectation for privacy beyond that which you would find anywhere else on the public internet.

Facebook wasn’t build for brands to use as their personal playground. It was created, much as the internet as a whole, as a tool for communication and collaboration. After beta testing on Mark Zuckerberg carried his Utopian dreams of sharing everything, all the time, to the masses when he opened the castle walls to allow anyone to join.

Once the site could be used by brands to engage however they pleased, Facebook was thrust into the business of giving away free websites. Giving brands the ability to create custom landing pages, complete with Flash and HTML elements, took away the brand control Facebook had already well established. Suddenly, brands could engage consumers, run promotions, and just plain make money from the site with no recompense back to the mothership.

Now branded and official pages default to displaying the Wall, where the contributions from visitors and fans (Likers?) take center stage–just as Facebook was initially built. This enforced structure is in keeping with Zuckerberg’s publicly declared (and lately decried) philosophy of openness.

Yes, perhaps it makes it tougher for a brand. Yes, perhaps it’s bad form to reel out the rope only to yank it back in, as Facebook seems to be fond of doing.

But advertisers need to remember that it’s not our world, we just live in it. A hammer wasn’t invented for us to slap a logo sticker on, it was invented to be more efficient than a rock at driving a small spike into wood. Facebook wasn’t invented for us to shout our message at people, it was invented for those very people to talk with each other.

Want to make the most out of Facebook? Use it in conjunction with your own website, vanity URLs, Foursquare, Twitter and the like to deliver a clear, consistent message and enable your visitors to engage with you however they see fit. Give your loyal fans special deals and promotions to reward them for advocating on your behalf. Augment your traditional media by giving consumers a place to go where they can actually do something rather than be passive receivers of your message.

But don’t expect Facebook–or any other communication tool–to be modified or re-purposed to cater to your needs. Facebook isn’t for you, and neither will the next big thing be so. Play along or take your ball and go home.

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2 Responses

  1. I’m with you on this one, Matt. I’m much more comfortable with Facebook being a site for connection and attraction, not sales. The outcry is from marketers who flat-out don’t understand what makes Facebook such a powerful platform in the first place.

  2. Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite working in marketing and rejecting so many long-held tenets of the field.

    But then I remember that the best marketing is centered around humanity, and that someone has to be the jerk who points it out, and I feel better.

    Thanks for reading and for the comment.

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