Why you may not need Facebook to sell stuff

A Forrester study says Facebook offers online retailers few returns.

Facebook is often touted as a must-have tool for small businesses as a means to boost their brand awareness and to reach existing and potential customers. However, the social network does not necessarily translate into more sales if you are an e-tailer. In fact, a Facebook page will have little or no impact on an e-tailer's sales, Forrester Research says. And using Facebook to boost revenues remains "elusive" for e-tailers.

According to an excerpt from the Forrester report, Facebook also offers e-tailers few benefits compared to other marketing tools. "E-business professionals in retail collectively report little direct or indirect benefit from Facebook, and social networks overall trail far behind other customer acquisition and retention tactics like paid search and e-mail in generating a return on investment," the report says. "For some companies and brands, Facebook promises to support branding and awareness (i.e., 'top of the (marketing) funnel') efforts, but for most ebusiness companies in re-tail, Facebook is unlikely to correlate directly to near-term sales."

So do not expect Facebook to help your business sell more stuff on the Internet if you are an e-tailer.

But what makes Facebook worthwhile for small businesses in general? Among some of the more obvious benefits, small businesses can use a Facebook page to supplement their Website presence--or even replace their Website if they don't have one. It can also be used for crowdsourcing purposes, by putting questions to contacts in a Facebook network about what they think about a particular business decision or subject. Still, I certainly see a lot of negatives that can outweigh any perceived benefits for small businesses (or society in general, but that is another subject of debate).

A huge issue is how users, when given the freedom, will waste time using Facebook on work time. As you read this post, it is highly likely that you are tempted to sneak a peak at Facebook to see if someone has commented on your status or what your "friends" are up to.

According to a Nucleus Research study, almost 50 per cent of office employees use Facebook while at work. The study found that companies with employees who access Facebook see a 1.5 per cent drop in productivity. Would a supervisor or an IT administrator be a monster by just banning Facebook access altogether unless it was necessary to use it for a work-related reason?

Here is a question every small business owner should ask: If you and your employees suddenly stopped using Facebook, would your enterprise see any difference in profits or sales? I think it is a question that should be asked more often. It may turn out that your enterprise will make more money by dropping Facebook.

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Tags internetFacebooksocial networksForrester ResearchInternet-based applications and servicesshoppingWeb-based Applications

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Bruce Gain

PC World (US online)
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