How far should you take your Facebook relationship?

Companies considering Facebook intergration need to realise that it isn't an all or nothing decision. It's about finding the balance.

The rise of social media and apps has left one question at the forefront of many companies’ minds: should we also be integrating with Facebook? The second question that follows on logically from this is, so how far should we take it? As with any decision, there are benefits and drawbacks of Facebook integration, yet it is important to remember that this is not an “all or nothing” position to take. 

Why Facebook is worth the commitment

In terms of integration benefits, the most obvious is having greater opportunities to promote your site to the Facebook member base. Facebook’s usage and market penetration as a platform is without peer. It now claims over 500 million active users worldwide, half of whom login on a daily basis.For a company considering integrating with Facebook, this is a massive target market that you would ordinarily not have the access to.

Using Facebook’s authentication, social channels and social plugins can make it easier for people to interact with your site as it enables them to only have to remember one set of login details for all functions. Having the ability to easily share content across friend networks also makes life easier for your users. With the click of a “like” button, users can easily share a variety of things across their friend networks from what they are doing on the weekend, through to the latest product they like, making it easier for them to get information out.

While comments and “likes” help businesses gain awareness, the feedback that companies receive through messages and comments is invaluable customer input. This feedback can help you get a better understanding of your customers, an understanding that you might not gain otherwise. People are far more likely to review a product or give feedback, both good and bad, on a social media platform, such as Facebook, than they are to the company’s own customer service or feedback facilities. Also, research from Facebook shows that not only does the average Facebook user has 130 friends, we also trust the endorsement of a friend, or someone within our network more than any other form of advertising, so this is a huge benefit in terms of gaining further positive awareness.

Another big benefit of Facebook integration is that it can also provide your site with fast access to social features that you would otherwise have to develop yourself.

'Frictionless sharing'

Then there’s Facebook’s so-called “frictionless sharing”, the Open Graph API automates the sharing process, so that completing certain actions on your site results in this information being automatically shared on individuals’ timelines, in the side bar and in news feeds. Suddenly, your app is everywhere. It becomes a part of the customers’ everyday life; it’s how they share information and how they express themselves.

Spotify is a great example of a business that has used Open Graph to increase awareness of their services and launch their business. CEO Daniel Ek sees this as an important part of their growth strategy. Spotify integrated with Facebook and suddenly you can’t go onto your newsfeed without seeing that one of your friends has been listening to certain songs on Spotify. It now feels as though every song you listen to should be shared via Spotify so that all of your friends know; but it wasn’t that long ago that the Spotify and Facebook relationship didn’t exist. Once Facebook integration occurs, the reception is rapid.

 The flipside to friending Facebook 

As with everything in life, there is always a flipside. Facebook unfortunately has a reputation for mistreatment of member privacy and information. For most tech companies looking to integrate with the social media giant, this probably isn’t an issue; it’s only if your business is operating in an industry where security, privacy or anonymity are valued by your customers, or if you are collecting personal information, that deep integration with Facebook could actually cause your customers to turn away. For example, the Health industry values confidentiality as people might be reluctant to ask questions or leave feedback if they know that there’s a chance it won’t be anonymous.

Aside from this, Facebook has a notoriously complex API. In 2011 Facebook won “worst API” in a developer survey conducted by TechCrunch. Developers find communicating with Facebook challenging: the API is changed without notice, response times and resolution on issues is improving, but still poor. Sites that have Facebook features as a core part of their service can have their customer experience severely impacted when these features don’t work.

A complex relationship

However, it is important to understand that integrating with Facebook is not an “all or nothing” decision. Many applications are simply not aware of the variety of options now available. Aside from the most commonly used social plugins and authentication (which allow likes, shares and Facebook login), there are now much more advanced integrations available to drive consumer engagement and increase the viral distribution of your site’s content through Facebook.

It is also important to remember that it’s one thing for a business to have a Facebook page, but it’s another for that business to be active. Having a Facebook page might initially help a company gain a lot of “likes”, but if the business doesn’t maintain an active online presence, people are going to forget about you pretty quickly. Integrating with Facebook is useful in this regard because your company automatically comes up all over Facebook. Should you, however, choose not to integrate with Facebook, it is important that you have some sort of feature that allows customers to “like” and share content so you can maintain awareness of your brand.

Finally, it is vital to consider your customers and industry and their desire for security, privacy or anonymity when deciding on integration options. What seems to be best for your business at first glance may, in fact, deter customers from engaging and doing business with you. Understanding how your customers want to interact with you and your content is also vital to succeeding in any social media marketing. 

Anneliese Urquhart is the co-founder and CEO of event digital marketing startup Jedo