A few years ago the company who were hosting the website I had back then suddenly put up their prices. This was round about the time that MySpace was becoming big news. It seemed like every business had their own MySpace page, and were using it to promote themselves in much the same way as a website. The advantages were clear – no costs, and because MySpace had done all the search engine optimisation, there was a greater chance of you being found on the web. It therefore made perfect sense to me to sign up. So I did. I actually used the MySpace profile as my main web presence for about a year – it worked, basically. Then Facebook came along and suddenly MySpace became the 21st century equivalent of quadrophonic sound (ask your dad), Betamax video and 8-track cartridges (ask your granddad).
Fast forward to the present day & I have had (or been involved in) four different ventures which used Facebook as a tool to promote themselves. Obviously, there is my guitar tuition business, then there was the retail outlet I ran with my wife for a couple of years; an album I recorded and released on my own label and finally, a live cabaret duo I was one half of last year. Each of these businesses were promoted heavily on Facebook and much time & effort was devoted to building the profile of each one.
I applied for, and got, some funding for “creative & arts based entrepreneurs” from the local authority and this was provided in the form of expert tutoring on the best ways to post and use social media to promote the businesses I was involved with. The point being, that I was (presumably) doing it properly & not just fumbling around making all the newbie mistakes. Despite all of this, and despite having many “likes” on each of the pages I was managing, not a single brass farthing of extra revenue was earned as a result of having a Facebook presence for any of the ventures. For me, at least, Facebook didn’t work at all.
What baffles me slightly is that I regularly come into contact with folks who’ve had similar experiences to mine, but still insist that Facebook DOES work. “Oh, it raises awareness” they say, or “It’s a great way of getting publicity” or even “Well, yes my business DID close down, but while it was going, Facebook was great for promoting it.” Is that not a bit like saying… “Well, yes the patient DID die, but the medicine WAS working right up to the end…” See what I mean?
The popular belief seems to be that Facebook may not help to put more money in the till, but it helps in “other ways” – a vague term which is often left undefined. Frankly, I don’t care about these mysterious “other ways” that Facebook is so good at helping me with… I need something which will bring customers to my door.
I’m not, for one minute, saying that Facebook is the reason for my retail business going to the wall, or for my guitar tuition practice facing lean times, or the lack of paying gigs for my live music venture – the continuing economic hard times are the culprit for many a sound business which finds itself facing difficulties. What I AM saying is that Facebook isn’t the way out of the woods. Sure, it’s free if you choose not to pay to promote you page(s), but it does take up time to maintain a profile. Time is money & that money is much better spent on a well written website and an ad in the good old Yellow Pages, a decidedly “last century” option… but it works!
I no longer have a Facebook account of any kind & only a minimal presence on Twitter. I haven’t lost touch with anyone that matters to me, and since I’ve been devoting my time & resources towards methods of promoting myself which actually work, I’m seeing a slight (it’s still early days) glimmer of a light at the end of the tunnel.
If you are a musician or are involved in any creative enterprise, then think twice about whether using social media is worth the time & effort involved. I’m doing OK without it, and as a result I have more time to spend being creative and selling my wares. If you believe it works for you, then good luck & I hope it continues to do so, but it might just be worth tracing where your customers are finding you. Even if it’s only to confirm what you believe.