Weighing In on the Facebook Debate

For the last few weeks, I’ve been reading lots of posts, debates, articles and conversations about the changes Facebook made recently. There are concerns about individual users’ privacy, and there are concerns about the ability companies and brands will have to further their business goals using Pages.

The concerns about user privacy are valid because most people don’t understand them.  The New York Times published this infographic that shows just how many options you must navigate in order to control your privacy settings. It wouldn’t so bad if average users understood that changes had taken place, but most don’t.

The argument that the service is free and that you must agree to such changes when you agree to Facebook’s Terms of Service when you create an account is valid. It’s a case of buyer beware, even though no money changes hands.

The changes businesses need to navigate are even murkier. The relationship between businesses that have Pages and Facebook were confusing to novices to begin with, but now there is much more to know.  Social media is very new, and the use of various platforms for business is even newer.

Even before the most recent round of changes was implemented, Tamar Weinberg had begun writing this “Open Letter to Facebook” in which she mentions  problems I have encountered – and a few I haven’t personally dealt with – in managing Pages for clients.

The introduction of Community Pages adds yet more complexity to the situation. Jermiah Owyang wrote a great post detailing the changes and likely outcomes of them.

So many companies, large and small, are looking to social media to augment or even replace traditional marketing strategies. Budgets are tight now and companies need to reach out to consumers through as many avenues as possible – not to mention that the direct communication social media allows is invaluable for companies.

However, companies should be cautious. At least a couple of clients have asked me if they even really need web sites since they can use Facebook Pages so effectively. The answer is a resounding YES! You own the content on your website.  If you want to host a contest on your site, you don’t need permission to do so.

Wise business people will invest considerable resources in building community and fostering communication on their own sites. Stay engaged with your clients and prospective clients through social media outlets, sure. But make sure you are pointing them back to your site where you have control.

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