“Bob Hebeisen just reordered Viagra®”… and other Facebook marketing campaigns you should never see

By Bob Hebeisen

The other day I was reading an article on Ad Age Digital about Facebook marketing. It was a recap of various case studies of successful Facebook marketing campaigns including Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Forever21, eBay, MTV, TripAdvisor, Ticketmaster, and Major League Baseball.

At the end of the article, the author insists…

“Any way you look at it, the future of nearly every business
is intimately entwined with Facebook…”

This is a crazy statement. Come on, gotta stop the hype. Facebook marketing is a good tactic for many — but not all — consumer brands. And it is not an efficient or effective tactic for most B2B brands.

Are the fish inclined to take your bait?

There is an old adage about marketing and sales: “fish where the fish are.” It means your marketing and sales efforts should be focused on media that can deliver your target market. It wouldn’t make much sense to go fishing in a pond where all the fish have been removed, it would not yield positive results. Likewise, if you spend your time executing marketing campaigns to lists and media devoid of your target audience then you will experience very poor results.

But I think a more apt adage would be to “fish where the fish are inclined to take your bait.” I know that is not as catchy as the original phrase, but let me explain. You could fish all day long in a lake full of fish, but if the fish are for some reason not inclined to take your bait then you will not have good results.

That’s what I think is the big problem with Facebook marketing for many brands. There is little doubt that Facebook can deliver your target market. We all know the stats:

However, there is one sobering statistic for B2B marketing:

But that’s not the biggest problem.  For many brands (some consumer and most B2B) people are just not willing to engage on Facebook. The “fish” are present, but they are not inclined to take your bait.

Examples of Facebook marketing campaigns you should never see:

#1. Bob Hebeisen shared the Groupon™ “25% discount on United Site Services Portable Toilet Rentals” — Sure, event planners place a high value on reliable service vendors. But the minutia of our work lives is often too technical or mundane to share on Facebook because it would be excruciatingly boring for our friends and family. United Site Services does not have a Facebook page.  As a B2B marketer for the software company PTC, I “liked” Facebook campaigns that my own company was running, and shared technical videos and published case studies about CAD software on Facebook. I can tell you now that it bored the heck out of 99% of my family and friends.  Even the design engineers who were included in our target market joined our Facebook campaigns in very small numbers and engaged very infrequently.  Marketing bandwidth would have been better spent elsewhere.

  • Social Media that makes sense: United Site Services has built some basic interactive components into their own website: a sizing and configuration guide that helps event planners get the right number and type of units based on their audience needs.  They could host a blog about all sorts of event management topics to engage their buyers.  They could build a stronger presence on LinkedIn and participate in LinkedIn discussion groups for event planning.

#2. Bob Hebeisen’s APC Back-UPS® ES 550VA uninterruptible power supply saved the day this morning when the power spiked while performing the month-end financial close — It might be true, but it is not really something you would type into your Facebook status update. APC does not have a Facebook page.

  • Social Media that makes sense: APC supports their user community with a robust set of discussion forums.  This makes a lot more sense than Facebook for a technical buyer, and for a product you hope you never have to rely on.

#3. Bob Hebeisen likes Joshua Spirn & Associates bankruptcy attorneys — The brands you are affiliated with in your work life may represent highly confidential activities.  Your company would probably not appreciate it if you were publicly “liking” a bankruptcy attorney on Facebook for all the world to see (and in fact it might represent an SEC violation if you work for a public company).  Joshua Spirn & Associates *does* have a Facebook page, and it is pretty well populated with status updates.  But only one person has clicked the “like” button to receive the attorney’s status updates in their feed, so I would question whether maintaining a Facebook presence is an effective use of their time.

  • Social Media that makes sense: Joshua Spirn Associates has excellent search engine ranking and they have 24×7 live chat on their website.  That probably contributes greatly to new business.  They also maintain a weekly blog.  This is a good idea, but there is no real opinion sharing on the blog, it is more of a running list of local companies who have declared bankruptcy, so there is little or no commenting or other audience interaction.  They would probably benefit from actively seeking endorsements on services like Yelp (only 1 endorsement) where the identity of the endorser is kept somewhat anonymous.  They could also explore LinkedIn (they do not have a company profile on LinkedIn, and there are some discussion groups dedicated to bankruptcy law they could participate in).

#4. Bob Hebeisen just reordered Viagra® — Unless you are Bob Dole, Pele, or another celebrity endorser of Viagra, you are probably not interested in broadcasting your affiliation with that brand — even though you might be a devoted and grateful user.  Viagra does not have a Facebook page.

  • Social Media that makes sense: I think Viral Video would be a great social media element for Viagra’s marketing strategy.  But, surprisingly, it is almost impossible to find any of Viagra’s celebrity endorsement commercials on YouTube.  So it would seem that not only have they opted NOT to upload and distribute these videos on YouTube themselves, but they actively police other individuals from uploading them.  Viagra does have a YouTube channel but it is currently devoted to informing people about pharmaceutical piracy.  Viagra apparently has exactly zero sense of humor about erectile dysfunction, and maybe that is the best tone for them to set from a business standpoint.

I’m not saying there are no uses for Facebook marketing in the B2B world. There are some business products that are so pervasive and used horizontally across so many different industries and job functions that Facebook is a good medium. For example, the Microsoft Excel Facebook page offers tips and techniques and moderated peer support to its 81K+ friends.  Frankly, users might be better served finding answers on the Microsoft Excel Support Site or the MSDN Forum, but Facebook is much more approachable for most non-technical users.  Microsoft’s time maintaining the MS Excel Facebook page is probably time well spent.

It’s about context

The reason Facebook doesn’t work for the majority of B2B brands is not that the audience is absent.  It is not that you can’t select the right people through profile data or relevant “likes”.  It is not because of any mechanical problems with Facebook as a medium — it is a great platform for publishing content and enabling people to interact with it (likes, comments, shares).  It is not because the results cannot be measured — with appropriate campaign discipline it is just as easy to track Facebook campaign effectiveness as any other web or email campaign.

The problem with Facebook for B2B marketing is purely related to context — it is a place where people gather for non-work related fun.  Even if you are Facebook friends with your work colleagues, you probably do not interact with them on Facebook *about work matters*.  It is not the place where people are looking for work-related product information or brand interaction.

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About Bob Hebeisen

My name is Bob Hebeisen and I'm a Boston-based Marketing Director, currently working at SDL Language Solutions. I formerly held Field Marketing and Channel Marketing roles at PTC, and have spent most of my 20-year career in Business-to-Business (B2B) technology marketing. Follow me at http://twitter.com/bobhebeisen
This entry was posted in Blog, Community Site, Facebook, LinkedIn, Social Media, Viral Video, Yelp. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “Bob Hebeisen just reordered Viagra®”… and other Facebook marketing campaigns you should never see

  1. Matthew Austin says:

    Great perspectives Bob but i had to chuckle when you mentioned Viagra and going viral in the same breath! That’s quite the double entendre and something the US Surgeon General may want to comment on!

    In the glorious world of ecommerce (ratcheting up a nice 13% annual growth rate), Shoebuy has experienced some very positive results through Facebook marketing, particularly on games where the rabid players are mothers aged 41 to 48. We are obseesed with real numbers – ie. cold, hard conversion rates and have been pleasantly surprised with the results to the pojn t that we will keep on chugging in this space.

    Like

    • b2bhebeisen says:

      Thanks for your comment, Matthew.

      Shoebuy’s Facebook page success (http://www.facebook.com/Shoebuy) makes all the sense in the world to me. It is a Business-to-Consumer effort. People love to talk about their shoes and their shoe brand affinities. And people love to brag about getting a good deal, and they love to spread the word when they see a good deal on clothing and shoes. Facebook is a no-brainer for Shoebuy!

      Regarding the blog post title, I am trying to be more provocative with the my blog post titles, and this one seems to have done the trick!

      Like

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