Originally published in MediaPost's Social Media Insider
When Facebook announced its new messaging service yesterday, you had to listen closely if you wanted to hear what social network founder Mark Zuckerberg said about brands.
He mentioned that 350 million of Facebook's 500 million members use its messaging system (spanning the site's email, instant messaging, and text messaging) and that there are 4 billion messages sent daily. As a footnote, he said that doesn't include messages brands share, such as through status updates and notifications. That was it.
As much as Facebook depends on advertisers, Zuckerberg reinforced the idea that it depends on people, not marketers. This is far different from Google, which has a mission to "organize the world's information" and welcomes advertisements as part of that information. On Google, ads often wind up being the most relevant results for search queries. On Facebook, where the call to action is about sharing, people talk about brands a lot but don't go there specifically to share marketing messages.
Inevitably, whenever Facebook comes out with any news at all – it could be that they're pulling up their carpeting and going with hardwood floors – people like me at organizations like mine spend the next couple hours or days ruminating on how the news impacts marketers. I didn't expect the messaging announcement to impact brands at all, but I still spent the better part of my day yesterday listening to, thinking about, discussing, and writing about the news.
It turns out, after all of the rumination, that there are two ways Facebook's news could materially impact brands. If consumers, especially younger ones, really are ditching email — a trend not quantified but well-documented anecdotally — then email marketing will become less useful for reaching this demographic. Taking this line of thinking further, if predominantly younger audiences are ditching email to communicate through Facebook, brands need to redouble their efforts at building their Facebook page audiences and optimizing every message that they post, as marketers' status updates that appear in consumers' News Feeds are not affected by the new messaging overhaul.
Despite Facebook's efforts to make the event all about its members, there was still something in it for marketers, and there always will be. Yet Zuckerberg and his colleagues aren't staying awake at night thinking about how everything affects marketers. We need to remember this. Social media isn't about us. It never was, and it never will be. It will always be about people, or users, or members, or consumers, or whatever you want to call them. Social media is for them; we just get to participate, sometimes, and reap the benefits when we do our jobs right.
In case this needs to be hammered home any further, here are five reminders you can tape on your wall:
1) You don't acquire customers. You earn their trust.
2) There's a difference between being liked and being loved. Yes, a consumer may like you on Facebook and follow you on Twitter and subscribe to your YouTube channel or RSS feed. While that gives you a way to continually communicate with such consumers, those consumers aren't thinking about you 24 hours a day. For every consumer, though, there are a handful of brands for which he or she will be an advocate.
3) Social media is about people connecting to people. Brands play just a small part in people's lives.
4) Your competitors in social media are often not your traditional competitors. Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks are competitors online and offline, but when it comes to social media, Dunkin' Donuts must also compete with Coca-Cola, Oreo, Skittles, Victoria's Secret, and other brands that have a knack for staying connected to their audiences. Your biggest competitors, however, are consumers' friends and other people they trust. See the previous reminder.
5) You can't control the conversations. You can listen and participate. You can influence and inspire. You can empower advocates and defuse detractors. That's a lot more than you could do before, but you'll never have control. That's a good thing. How well would you react if someone was trying to control everything you said?
If you want to save these reminders or know someone who will need them, I uploaded them as a one-page PDF on Slideshare. Share your own recommended reminders in the comments. I'll read them and might even respond, but I know better than to attempt to control what happens from here.