A Scenic Tour of the Online World

Facebook Vs. Website – Who’s A Marketer’s Best Friend?

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Facebook vs. Website:  Who’s A Marketer’s Best Friend?

About a year and a half ago – right after Christmas 2010 – I was driving up the West Side Highway in New York and saw three billboards that made my jaw drop. The one I remember best was for The Gap, but they were all big, multinational consumer brands.

What shocked me was each billboard had, in the lower right corner where you might expect to see www.gap.com, their Facebook link. www.facebook.com/gap.

I was floored. Surely I’m not the only person who remembers how recent it was that all the cool kids were hanging out on MySpace? And before that on Friendster and before that on AOL and before that on …

So why would brands turn their marketing over to a free service with questionable privacy practices? Or any service they have little to no control over? And shouldn’t the goal of social media be to drive traffic to your site, create engagement, and ultimately generate some kind of conversion that probably isn’t possible on someone else’s site?

That experience came to mind when I was reading a post about Facebook vs. Websites on the AllFacebook blog.

It’s no surprise that people prefer a warm introduction to a brand rather than cold, hard advertising, so there’s real value in social media. No dispute there. But there are still very real questions how brands should approach social media. Some factoids from the Incyte Group/Get Satisfaction research report comfirm this.

  • In spite of $3 million spent by U.S. marketers on Facebook pages, consumers still prefer company websites, visit company websites more than company brand pages, and would prefer to learn about companies from friends, not ads.
  • 70% of visitors to social networking sites are there for social reasons. Only 12% go to interact with brands.
  • Consumers nearing the end of their buying cycle – those looking for info to make a buying decision – overwhelming look to brand websites. (89% vs. 21% who choose social networks.) Similar findings were reported for consumers in earlier phases of their buying process.

Perhaps the most interesting fact isn’t that consumers really don’t want to be friends with your brand – that’s kind of a “duh” – but that consumers want your website to include more social features, like reviews and comments.

That’s likely to be fairly tough to achieve: there are few brand sites with truly engaged audiences, and those engaged enough to comment on or review a product are more likely to do so on a broader ecommerce site like Amazon. (Though quick hits – “Company xyz stinks,” or “My new ______  is awesome” – are much more common in social media settings.)

These findings further reinforce the idea that social media has to be about dialog, particularly customer support and engagement, rather than one more megaphone to spit advertising messages through.


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