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Social Context: Are Facebook Pages a Requirement for All?

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(A quick side note. Today’s post is #400 for SlopeFillers. Crazy, huh? Anyway, moving on…)

Making my usual blog rounds a week ago, I stumbled onto a post by Troy Thompson from Travel2Dot0. He said something that I hadn’t never seen someone come out and say before. I think some people have wanted to shout it from the rooftops, but they haven’t (at least not in my neighborhood). Here’s what Troy said:

You don’t need to be on Facebook.

Facebook, and many other social platforms are incredibly powerful tools. They are however, still tools, not one-stop marketing shops and they don’t fit everyone. I do believe they fit ski resorts more than most business types, but some of my recent posts are simply about giving social some context so we go into it with a realistic expectation of what we can get out.

When i saw his post, I quickly bugged him for an interview and he graciously obliged. I’ll let Troy do the talking from here on out:

Gregg: Troy, give us a quick background on you and your company.
Troy: Well, if this was a tweet: Former NASCAR and tourism vet, focused on digital marketing. Currently running my own tourism strategic consulting firm.

That pretty much sums it up, with room for the retweet too.

I started Travel 2.0 as an industry resource, and with the help of some fantastic guest writers (Mo, Jules, looking at you), the blog grew into a popular read for many of my peers within the tourism vertical.

Upon entering the world of consulting, I simply expanded the blog and the name (literally) with a focus on strategic guidance, planning and evaluation for destinations, CVBs and large resorts.

At our core, we help people answer tough digital marketing questions.

Gregg: You recently wrote a blog post that caught my attention in which you say, (and I’m completely taking this out of context), “You don’t need to be on Facebook.” Talk a little bit about what you meant.
Troy: Essentially, I was attempting to break the fictitious thought that every brand, marketer or business should be on Facebook.

Specifically for that post, I was referring to an art gallery owner I met while speaking in Maine, who sells expensive works to reclusive buyers. She admitted to me that she felt guilty for focusing on her email campaign instead of Facebook. As I explained to her, and in that article, based on strategic goals, the gallery does not need to be on Facebook.

For me, the anti-Facebook stance is not one of rebellion…I do see value for some brands to be on Facebook…but one of passion. If your brand brings out a passionate response in people (for example, tell me your favorite ski resort in Colorado), then Facebook is likely a good social outlet.

If your brand does not exert passion, such as a commodity brand…batteries, gas, deodorant, hotel chains, etc…then it will be a struggle to engage with people on Facebook.

Gregg: This is a question that has been answered a lot of ways, but when you say “I do see value for some brands to be on Facebook”, what specific value do you see?
Troy: Well, that of course depends on the brand / organization / destination. Overall, there is value in being able to connect directly with your consumers. Depending on the brand, that value may resonate as customer service, sales, communication, etc.

Back to the value idea. I think about it in the same terms as a retail store. When a customer walks into your store, you have an opportunity to connect with and ultimately, sell to, that customer. No one would question the value of the customer in that scenario.

Same idea for Facebook.

The customer is walking into your store…or page…and that connection is an opportunity.

Whether or not you are prepared to engage with your new found Facebook visitor is a different issue.

Gregg: Backtracking a bit, people don’t feel like “rebels” if they don’t use TV ads or email marketing, so where does this idea of feeling social media is a requirement come from?

Troy: Good question. I think there are 3 sources, or causes:

1. Its easy. It takes 2 minutes to start a Facebook page, but 2 months to create a TV spot. That ease of use causes a lot of premature social marketing.

2. Its familiar. Never before have we interacted with a marketing medium similar to Facebook. We start off with a personal interest and then that builds to a professional one. No one is at home shooting TV ads or illustrating a print campaign in there free-time. But we do with Facebook.

3. Hype. It is no coincidence that there is a symbiotic relationship between Facebook and the social blogging world (Mashable et al). Facebook has grown as a marketing medium (in part) because of consistent editorial and those editorial portals have grown due to the ubiquitous ‘Top 10 ways to do this on Facebook’ post.

Add them up and you have a culture of pressure to make Facebook work for your brand, rather than considering if Facebook truly fits your brand strategy.

Gregg: So, returning to your response that you brand needs to “exert passion” to be a good fit for social media, take that one step further. If my brand exerts passion, should I create a Facebook page today or what other factors should I consider and expectations to begin with?
Troy: First, a brand needs to determine if it truly has a passionate position with its consumers. It is a tough question. And a passionless brand is a difficult realization to accept.

Still, passion is not a requirement to sign-up on Facebook. However I find that brands with a passionate base (Diet Coke, Vail, In-N-Out, etc.) have an easier time when starting without a strategy. Commodity brands can succeed on Facebook, but they simply have to work harder and smarter than their popular peers.

If you are just starting out on Facebook, I would begin by answering a simple question: What do you want to be different 6 months from now?

Do you want more sales? A focus group? Brand advocates? 6,000 more email addresses?

It is not about the Likes, but rather what you want those Likes to do. What is your goal? Your metric for success? Find your answer, write it down, post it on your office wall and build towards that goal.

Starting with a concrete goal will give you the ability to see beyond the banal objective of fans and provide focus for your Facebook strategy.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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