Does Facebook Offer Marketing Pleasure — or Pain?

Facebook recently gained the honor of “most visited site on the web.”  For small businesses with limited marketing budgets, ready access to such a captive audience should be a prized resource. After all, marketing intelligence of the Facebook sort was once reserved only for elite companies with sophisticated analytics teams and deep pockets. Thanks to social media, the one-man entrepreneur can now conceivably generate quite a solo marketing effort at very little, if any, cost.

As user expectations of what a social network can and should know constantly evolves, Facebook has some nagging issues.  Criticism around Facebook’s privacy settings have been voiced by disgruntled users and watchdog groups to no avail. The issue isn’t likely to be overhauled; users keep returning, and advertisers are buying space.  But the issue presents a double-edged sword for small businesses.  While loose controls have contributed to the mounds of cheap marketing intelligence and access that makes Facebook an appealing tool for small businesses, it leads to problems, specifically when trying to segment marketing messages or offers to targeted populations.

John White, general manager of Best Essay Help, recently faced a serious issue as a result of Facebook’s “open” nature. His targeted clients are students and graduates seeking professional writing help online. As a result of his businesses’ Facebook page, he was recently contacted by a professor questioning whether his service helps students skirt plagiarism policies. “After a series of chats the issue settled down, but we still feel uncomfortable using Facebook to reach out to our targeted audience,” says White.

Another major issue for small businesses using Facebook is the ability for anyone to post on a page wall. Crystal Kendrick, president of the minority-owned marketing firm The Voice of Your Consumer, says that while her organization has a very active page, the “greatest challenge is managing spam posts that may include comments and/or images from international terrorist groups, unknown political groups, discount prescription drug companies, or unfamiliar businesses.” While Facebook does send emails notifying page administrators of comments, the content remains on the page until an administrator can log on to Facebook and actively delete unwanted entries.

Naturally, competitors like Altly are actively vying for Facebook’s audience by developing alternative sites that claim to be devoid of such concerns. But overtaking a behemoth takes time. In the meantime, small businesses using Facebook must remember that when it comes to your page, all information is fair game.

About Stephanie Taylor Christensen

Stephanie Taylor Christensen holds a master’s degree in marketing and has 13 years of marketing management experience for Fortune 500 companies and small businesses. She is a regular contributor to sites like ForbesWoman, Real Simple, Mint, Minyanville, and SheKnows, and writes for several private business clients. Her work is frequently syndicated and sourced by Yahoo! Finance, SFGate, TodayShow.com, and The New York Times. She is also a small business owner, having founded WellnessOnLess.com, and Om for Mom Prenatal Yoga in Columbus, Ohio. Connect with her on Twitter @WellnessOnLess.
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