Question: What one or two words come to mind when you think about Facebook as a brand? Just think about that for a moment.
Sure, we all know that Facebook is a giant. We know that people spend more time on Facebook than any other site. We know that it’s a necessary part of any social media marketing strategy and a great way to reach our potential customers. But is Facebook getting away from what it does best – connecting people?
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve read 3 articles that make me wonder about Facebook’s branding strategy. As a marketing professional, I’d be curious to know what Facebook’s branding strategy looks like big picture and if it’s in line with the way users perceive the site. These 3 articles will explain what I mean by that…
1. Facebook Did What? Really?
Did you know Facebook recently did a psychological experiment on over 600,000 of its users without them knowing? Odds are you didn’t know unless you read this article about it. Sure, Facebook has done some things in the past to raise some red flags, but from a marketing viewpoint this one really makes people lose trust in the brand. So what did they do? Well with one group of people they displayed a much higher than normal amount of negative updates in their news feed. As you might guess, the other group of people got a larger than normal amount of only positive updates. In essence, they played with people’s emotions without them knowing it was going on.
A lot of people spend a ton of time on Facebook with many of them being affected either consciously or subconsciously by what they see on the social network. How do you think these people felt after finding out they might have been part of this experiment? Where does this fit in with Facebook’s marketing plan?
One viewpoint is that Facebook is a free site and yes, these people did agree to the terms by signing up and using Facebook that allows things like this to legally happen. But, there’s still something to be said about how people perceive Facebook as a brand because of things like this. If Facebook eventually becomes a smaller piece of a good social media marketing strategy, will things like this make people finally decide enough is enough?
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2. Is Facebook Getting Away from Its Original Brand?
Paid Social media marketing is highly effective and I’ve seen Facebook greatly improve its ads over the past couple of years. But does introducing so many advertisements alienate the person who just wants to use Facebook to stay in touch with family? Does the need to make money as a publicly traded company prove to be a frustrating user experience in the long run?
Facebook used to be about connecting people to people. Now it’s much more about connecting brands to current and potential customers. To a certain extent, the “human” aspect might be disappearing. I recently read this article about a guy who liked every single post he saw on Facebook for 48 hours (Note: Apparently “liking” everything resulted in a few choice words, but it’s still worth the read). Soon his entire newsfeed became all about advertising and business. The human element had almost disappeared, completely. That’s pretty wild when you really stop to think out it.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that it’s necessarily a bad thing for businesses to target customers by using highly effective data that’s shared via Facebook. What I am saying is that a lot of Facebook users who aren’t on the site for business don’t want that and feel they’ve been a victim of the old bait and switch.
3. Facebook Messenger App Update. No Big Deal, Right?
The Facebook Messenger feature has changed over the last couple of years quite a bit. In fact, I’ve seen some customers prefer using this over email. Very similar to how Twitter can be, sometimes it’s easier to get in touch via social media vs. fighting the never ending email battle (you all know what I’m talking about). Recently however, I saw several marketing professionals resist upgrading to the new Facebook Messenger app until they were absolutely forced to do so.
A lot has been written about this and there are still several myths out there about what exactly this means to users. The thing I found interesting is that the reason most people resisted is that they felt forced to do this update and they were concerned about their privacy being violated. It seems people initially avoid change for a long as possible when it comes to Facebook and, in general, don’t really have trust in the brand that their info will be safe. From a recent Huffington Post article:
“A quick look at these permissions (Facebook Messenger) reveals it can indeed access your entire address book, send SMS messages, record photos or videos using your camera, know your location at all times, access the Internet when it wants, and a slew of other pretty creeptastic things.”
After looking into it further, people are mostly getting stirred up about these 5 Facebook myths and in most cases Facebook Messenger is less invasive than the native Facebook app itself.
What Does Facebook’s Branding Strategy Have To Do With Your Business?
These are 3 simple reminders that the importance of having a clear branding strategy in place at your business cannot be overlooked. I wanted to share these examples with you to suggest that it’s possible for even the largest of brands to lose touch with their users/customers over time. Remember, the reality of your business branding strategy isn’t how you want to be perceived, but how your business is actually perceived by your audience.
At the end of the day, Facebook is still a vital part of an effective social media marketing strategy. That being said, it’s examples like these that may one day cause this giant to fall. So, let me ask you again after reading this – what one or two words come to mind when you think of Facebook as a brand? Share in the comments below!
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