A Lesson for Social Media Marketing: Don’t Fear Failure
For every innovation that succeeds, hundreds of others fail. But the most successful people and companies are ones that don’t let failure get them down. After all, Steve Jobs was once fired from his own company, and Walt Disney watched one of his early cartoon studios dovetail into bankruptcy. But Steve Jobs and Walt Disney continued working and innovating, even after major setbacks. While it may seem extreme to compare commercial empires with social media marketing, both are similar in that you’re not sure how people will react to your work until you try something and see how it goes. That’s an important lesson for social media marketing: Experiment. See what sticks, and what doesn’t. That’s what Facebook does. If you feel that your engagement efforts are going nowhere, read this list of Facebook’s wins and failures. You’ll see that when it comes to social media, constantly trying new things is the key.
Win: Instagram Video
Facebook’s latest innovation is video for Instagram, making it a competitor for the Vine app that’s been blowing up on Twitter. Or at least it was blowing up on Twitter. While Vine usage varied even before Instagram became video-friendly, it experienced a 64 percent drop between June 19 and June 26 (Facebook made its announcement on June 20). The new feature has let Instagram capitalize on the innovation of Vine while riding the wave of its much greater popularity. Now that one of the hottest social media trends of 2013 is Facebook-friendly, it remains to be seen how Vine will counterstrike.
Win: Graph Search
Introduced in January, graph search added a whole personal element to searching by letting Facebook users find recommendations based on their friends’ preferences. This has led to a whole new way of searching, based on social proof. Graph search isn’t just good for finding a good restaurant or book recommendation, however. Some people have even used it to look for jobs or make connections with friends of friends. For marketers, it gives a whole new insight into potential customers and clients, because they can easily search within their circles and see what their ideal buyers are drawn to.
Facebook Home is an Android app that launched in April. Instead of the normal background and app icons, a user with Facebook Home will see a Cover Feed, which shows status updates and other items from their friends—think of it as a News Feed, right at your fingertips. Facebook Home hasn’t received a very warm welcome, though. Out of more than 20,000 user reviews on Google Play, almost half of them gave the app one star. Users claim it drains their battery, it makes it difficult to user other apps, and it’s overwhelming to be logged in to Facebook all the time.
That “Give a Gift” option you see at the top-right corner when it’s your friend’s birthday is not something that sees many clicks. Essentially, it allows people to purchase gifts—both digital and otherwise—for their friends when Facebook senses, based on status updates, that a big occasion has happened. These may include a new baby or a new job. But the total amount of income from the Gifts feature is so small that Facebook CFO David Ebersman has admitted that the network won’t see a big revenue stream from it in 2013. Companies who sell through Facebook also don’t receive much of the customers’ actual information, and sometimes buyers don’t even know what company is supplying the gift. When it comes to Gifts, neither the buyers nor the sellers have had a great experience.
Unlike the success of copying Vine with Instagram, Facebook’s mobile version of SnapChat crashed and burned. An app that gave texts, videos and photos a shelf life of 1,3,5, or 10 seconds once sent to their recipient, Poke had little to do with the original poking option of Facebook’s younger years. Debuting right before Christmas, it was popular—for like a second. SnapChat users criticized Facebook for its lack of originality. Ironically, the network’s imitation only gathered more attention for SnapChat on Twitter, where lots of mentions gave the app a major boost in popularity.
All of these features have been introduced within the last year, which just goes to show that Facebook never stops trying to be better, even when its efforts crash and burn. And just like improving an entire website, social media marketing requires a lot of experimenting. Don’t be afraid to try a new idea, because you never know what will work and what won’t. If you fail, you can simply do what Facebook does: Get up, dust yourself off, and try again. Make note of why something didn’t work, and use that to tailor your social strategy accordingly. But don’t be afraid if something doesn’t pan out. After all, you’ll never know success until you try a lot of different things.