According to SocialBakers there are 31 million active Facebook users in the UK. That’s just over 50% of our total population. The largest group are the 25-34 year olds and the male/female split is about 50:50.
On the surface this looks like the ideal place for every business to be because it gives access to an unprecedented volume of potential customers. The natural effect on many businesses is that they feel a pressure to join and attempt to sell through Facebook simply because 31 million people can’t be wrong. Or can they?
Well, just because Facebook has some big numbers doesn’t mean that as businesses we should be impressed or beguiled into joining because it’s free (an attractive option for any business).
Let’s look at Facebook for what it is – an online space in which people (and businesses) can create profiles of themselves and network with their friends. It is a personal and social space. Now have a think about other personal and social spaces we inhabit; our homes, the pub, restaurants, the gym, parties and so on. What you notice about them is that selling in those spaces is almost always confined to products and services relevant to the individual not the business they work for. For example, it’s far easier to sell cosmetics at someone’s home than it would be sell them stationary for their business.
In other words the ‘environment’ that the selling takes place in is very important. Just because you can sell from an online space (Ebay, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate. (Few consultancies, for example would try to sell their services on Ebay.)
So what about Facebook?
Well, people in the act of Facebook-ing are typically not in the mindset to receive sales messages about their business because at that point they are mentally not at work. Consequently it becomes quite difficult to sell them products and services related to their work. It would be far easier to sell consumer based goods which help them on a personal level.
Broadly speaking if you sell business to business then Facebook may well be hard going because you’ll be dragging people back into a work mentality when they’re in a social mentality. However, if you sell business to consumer then you’re in with a much better chance and the more personal the product or service the greater the chance of a sale. (Which business do you think would do better on Facebook; selling brake shoes to the automotive industry or an ironing service? Obviously, the latter is more suited to Facebook because it is a personal service that can harness the power of recommendation through friends, likes and referrals.)
It’s worth remembering that in marketing you can only ‘know’ what you can prove with real data. Meaning that if you are still not sure whether Facebook is a worthy marketing platform then run a small scale test to find out (but do make sure you have a means of monitoring the result).
Finally, before you embark on building your Facebook community have a think about whether it is an appropriate selling space for you and remember that for most businesses commercial success is measured in pounds and pence and not just in likes and friends.