Healthcare Marketing: Facebook is Social – Not Commerce

Despite Facebook’s hopes, the site has not proven to be effective as a commerce site.  It’s about people being social.

There have been bold predictions by experts and great hope by Facebook executives that Facebook would become a viable and even dominant site for doing business.  Because of its over 850 million members, some even predicted it could become as big as Amazon. But that is not proving to be the case.

It is proving to be true that consumers prefer commerce sites for doing business and social sites for being social and they don’t want to mix the two.  While some analysts predicted Facebook would combine shopping with social interaction, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Just in the last few months, J.C. Penney, GameStop, Gap and Nordstrom have abandoned their Facebook storefronts.   They never gained traction.  There was no advantage to shopping the major retailers on Facebook over the company’s website.  Their regular websites were already convenient and consumers preferred shopping there.

Facebook and other social media sites are just that – social sites.  Social media sites are more for hanging out, like one does with their friends at a bar.  It’s not for commerce.  Companies can use social sites to communicate sales, product offerings, etc in an unobtrusive manner but that’s about as far as it goes.  Users apparently don’t want to shop there.  They just want to catch up and interact with their social contacts and friends on the web.

So what does this have to do with healthcare marketers?  It’s important to understand, that social networking sites are about socializing and not about pushing our products and service lines.  It’s about providing useful information, bringing people with similar interests and concerns together, it’s about engagement and it’s about building relationships. 

To try to use Facebook, or any other social media site, as a tool to push our services and sell our product lines will be futile.  Just like the person who is always trying to “sell you” in social settings soon becomes the person to avoid, brands that use social networking sites to push services will also soon be avoided.  We don’t need to be antisocial and never show up in social situations.  We need to be there.  But we need to be engaging and build relationships so when a business situation occurs, the brand has credibility and consumers know us and like us.

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