Facebook – Not the best way to reach your target audience

PR practitioners are always trying to find the best way to communicate their organization’s key messages to their target audiences.  Social networking sites have become a popular way to do this, but with a variety of social media tools available, is Facebook a good option?

I can’t imagine that many people haven’t heard of Facebook, but in case you haven’t, according to The New York Times, “Facebook is the second largest social network on the Web with around 60 million members.”  It can be used to connect with anyone else who is a member of the Facebook network.  Anyone over the age of 13 can sign up and many use it to connect with people they have lost touch with from their past.  But it is also popular for keeping in touch with current friends and for uploading and sharing pictures. 

With its increased growth over the past few years, it would seem that targeting your message through creating a group on Facebook would be a great way to reach your target audiences; over 200 companies are doing it.  However, this may not be the case. 

If your audience is college age students, this would have been a good idea in the past.  But according to Charlene Li, analyst at Forrester Research, we need to “beware of relying on what worked yesterday, especially with fickle college students.”  People in this age group are easily persuaded and, with so many spending a majority of their spare time at their computers, are likely to bore of any one site and quickly abandon it.  They are not loyal to Facebook.

Just look at the controversy that happened in November 2007.  According to The New York TimesFacebook created a major public outburst when it introduced a new advertising system called Beacon.  Using Beacon, members’ purchases or activities on some 40 partner sites were publicized to their Facebook friends.  Some Facebook members argued that they were not warned about the feature, which prompted the political activist group MoveOn.org to organize a Facebook protest group, attracting more than 70,000 members.  These members were quick to jump on the bandwagon and boycott Facebook after one problem and this number has likely grown since the incident.

But it is not just college students who are active on Facebook.  According to Li, “Facebook has projected that 75 % of worldwide users are out of college.”  The demographics have been changing rapidly and there are many more users that are over 35. 

So should we start a Facebook group for our organization if people in this age group are a part of our target audience?  Probably not.  Li also warns that the “newbie 35 + users” are just as fickle as college age members. 

Chris Clarke, coordinator of new media at NATIONAL Public Relations, posted in his blog 10 Reasons Facebook Has Jumped the Shark.  Among his reasons were advertising in the main feed, too many networks, it’s becoming too much like MySpace and social networking is becoming outdated. 

So, should we be using Facebook to deliver our key messages?  According to Li, “Facebook marketing requires communicating, not advertising.”  That is good, and probably something we could work with being in the business of communications, however it may be a better idea to invest more time and effort into the more popular social media tactics for your organization. 

Chris Clarke would agree as he feels that everyone should have a blog.  “Who needs a third-party system like Facebook when we have all the tools at our disposal to join in the existing social network known as the blogosphere?”  Although I am biased as I have never been an overly active Facebook user, I think he is right.


1 Comment »

  1. Rick Weiss Said:

    Hi Shauna,

    Did you come across anything saying there ever a time when Facebook was “The Best Way” to reach a target audience? I don’t think it’s ever been more than one tool that could be used in a communication campaign.

    I think marketers and communicators probably saw it as a shiney new toy to be used when it first gained popularity, just the same as the college students and 35+ers Charlene Li is talking about.

    Do you find your use of Facebook has changed since joining? I know my use has changed as I learned its features and uses; and developed certain gripes about the system. I still use Facebook on an almost daily basis though.

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