How the Facebook Fan Lost its Luster
How the Facebook Fan Lost its Luster

The social media landscape is changing once again.

Photo Credit: Twin Design / 

I hate the phrase, “I told you so,” but it’s one that comes to mind when I think about social media. I don’t know if it’s because I had a head start (I created a social media business plan at the end of 2006) or if it’s that the fundamentals I have learned from other areas of my career have paved the way to have a clear head about social media. Either way, I can see a clear path to where it is going and how it will continue to be disruptive for the communications world.
In 2008, I wrote a column about the fact that businesses should be wary of Facebook – not in using it, but in who owns it. As 2009 rolled around and the Fan Page was born, brands flooded the platform, spending millions of dollars to build these networks of so-called fans. We even fielded client demands to win the popularity contest with so-called “fake fans.” Facebook really pushed the popularity contest – whoever has the most fans is clearly the winner.

Brands proudly placed the Facebook logo on everything. Cups, napkins, newspaper ads, t-shirts, cars, airplanes – you name it, the Facebook logo was on it. When in the history of life did brands take another brand and spend millions to market it? Sure, there are other brands that we pay to market (like Coke), but it’s a rarity.

We took a different approach. We didn’t explore fans per location, trying to determine a value for the Facebook fan simply by measuring redemption of coupons and offers (more on that later).

The reality, at that point, still remained: We don’t own Facebook. Yet brands were still willing to spend millions to market their business for them.

Now comes today. You, as a brand, will pay about $1 per fan to get them to “like” your page – but wait, that’s not all – you then have to pay to talk with them (Facebook’s zero reach). And you know what? You are not only willing to do it, you are doing it. You’re spending money to get in front of the crowd.

Is it still a popularity contest? Only if you are interested in having the most signatures in your yearbook versus real friends.

You see, Facebook is, in my opinion, the smartest form of advertising that exists. The benefit for agencies like mine is that no one really understands how to use Facebook advertising. They spend dollars for reach, but have no idea how to measure it. This is where my agency has stayed a step ahead, in that we know some of those secret advertising maps.

The Facebook fan is just a number. In today’s world, it is about what that number does: How much it will cost you to make them do it and how much you can make. Figure that out, and you can leverage the Facebook fan.

What’s next in social?

I believe that brands will start to take back ownership of their footprints, in that they will leverage what they own (their website and their brand) to build a social world. This way the ownership of the email and the control of the relationship remains in the hands that earned it – the brand.

I also believe that social media as a category is going away. I am seeing more and more resumes that include Facebook under skills. If Social Media is the same as Microsoft Word, then there won’t be a need to pay for it as a specialty – more so a mandatory skill set of those you employ. The sad thing is, as social became hot, it killed many jobs, including those belonging to many journalists. Why watch the five o’clock news anymore when you already learned of everything that happened, in real time, in your newsfeed? Social trumped the journalist, but it’s changing again, and will likely eliminate another role in this world.

To be nimble will require outside-the-box thinking – or rather, in-the-box fundamentals. Look back at your website. I would start by thinking about how you can bring social back into it.