For some time now, we’ve been aware of companies putting nothing but their Facebook profile on their marketing communications.

This reminds us of the days when studios put just AOL keywords on movie posters. When was the last time you saw one of those? We found it curious, but thought little more of it. That was until recently when we’ve seen an alarming trend of completely inappropriate companies following suit.

Facebook’s stats are truly impressive, and some brands have fantastic amounts of traffic to their Facebook pages compared to their websitesStarbucks and Coca-Cola for example. But massive traffic is no reason for companies to ditch their own websitesand it’s certainly no reason to go ga-ga over Facebook and assume that it’s going to add a degree of ‘cool’ to any brand.

If you sell haemorrhoids cream, nobody is going to ‘like’ you on Facebook. If you fit double glazing, your customers aren’t going to fall over themselves to upload photos to your wall of them grinning in front of their new uPVC frames. You’ve got to recognise the kind of connection you’ve got with your customersin terms of frequency of contact and emotional association. Not everyone can be a Converse, Threadless or Starbucks.

Still itching to jump ship from that staid old website to Facebook? Maybe these questions will make you think twice.

  • Who else uses your website? Partners, investors, journalists, analysts, job-seekers… they may not be as great in number as your customers, but they’re important nonetheless. Do you reckon Facebook is secure and flexible enough to meet their needs?
  • Where are your customers? While over 600 million people have Facebook accounts, not everyone does. This is especially relevant if you sell B2B or if you sell globally.
  • Do you trust Facebook to be there for you? It’s not unthinkable that another service will supplant Facebook as the next cool place to be. But even if it lasts, its availability is out of your control. Governments may block it. It may shut your page down (particularly if it doesn’t like your service or corporate philosophy). It may fall over for a day or twoand it won’t recompense you for the downtime. It may give all your customer data to the government, leak it, or use it itself if it chooses.
  • Do you want real control over your content? Brands do very clever things with Facebook. But fundamentally, its core layout, look and feel, structure, content, APIs, and data structures are out of your control. Great if Facebook does everything you want, but otherwise you’re better off with your own site.

We don’t think that the days of the website are over yet. In fact, with tools like WordPress it’s arguably easier to set up a great looking website with galleries and discussion pages than it is to build the equivalent on Facebook. What do you think? Let us know below. And we’ll sort out a prize for whoever submits the strangest corporate use of Facebook.

Posted by John on 28 May 2011