A recent report from Forrester Research has concluded that Facebook is not a major force in e-commerce. After surveying over 20 technology retailers and marketers, Forrester found that having a Facebook Page provided “little benefit” to the companies involved.
According to the Wall Street Journal coverage of the report, a Facebook presence “was less effective at customer acquisition and retention than email and paid search.” The report compared email marketing’s 11% click-through rate and 4% conversion rate to Facebook Pages’ 1% click-through rate and 2% conversion rate. Many technology and marketing sites have taken this to mean that Facebook Pages don’t work.
Not so fast. The naysayers are forgetting some important details. Let’s make sure you don’t fall into the same trap.
First, Forrester’s premise is questionable. Facebook Pages are geared towards brand awareness, not conversion, so comparing their conversion rate to email marketing’s is unfair. This difference is highlighted by Forrester’s lead researcher, Sucharita Mulpuru, who stated that “You go to Facebook to find other people, not to find a product.” But Facebook Pages provide “other people,” through an online community of like-minded consumers. And a smart company offers a “person” in the form of a friendly marketing professional who responds to questions, comments, and complaints.
Which brings us to the next reason why the report underestimates Facebook Pages: interaction. A Facebook Page isn’t a retail site, though companies such as Best Buy and JCPenney are experimenting with selling products directly on their Pages. Most companies, large and small, use Facebook Pages to communicate with their customers and allow customers to connect with each other. Die-hard fans love talking directly to their favorite brands, while those with questions or complaints can receive quick resolutions. This acquisition and retention of consumers eventually leads to sales that Forrester didn’t track.
Another problem with Forrester’s report is that it was probably conducted too early. Many companies don’t have Pages yet (just as, fifteen years ago, many didn’t have websites), so the survey pool is much smaller. More importantly, a lot of brands don’t understand how to use Facebook Pages. They post copy verbatim from their press releases; they broadcast promotions but don’t reply to comments; or they post far too frequently, filling up their Fans’ newsfeeds and quickly getting “Unliked.”
Marketing scientist Dan Zarrella recently found that companies that posted more than once a day received fewer “Likes,” while those that posted every other day received the most “Likes.” This discovery is still filtering down to companies that are still figuring out how to maximize their Facebook Pages. Until they do, and until more companies join Facebook, Forrester’s report shouldn’t be taken as gospel.
Don’t let the low conversion rate fool you; Facebook Pages do, in fact, work. They create brand awareness and loyalty, they give a voice to a company, and they inform Fans of special offers and new products. The key is knowing how to use them and what to expect from them. The added value and interactivity they generate is something that email marketing, paid search, or print ads – and maybe even Twitter – can’t duplicate.