When Willie Walsh took over as CEO of British Airways in 2005 he was handed a poisoned chalice. The former “World’s Favourite Airline” was no longer the darling of the skies. And the company was surrounded by negativity and a hostile press. Add to that a powerful staff union, disgruntled pilots and difficult relationships with suppliers and you have the perfect recipe for the kind of dog’s dinner you might be served as an airline meal. Is it any wonder, that British Airways is in yet more difficulty? The company has fallen from grace and currently looks as though it is on a kamikaze mission. When you are “Number One” or you claim to be “The World’s Favourite” there really is only one way to go.
Imagine then, that you are half the age of Willie Walsh, without his experience and without the MBA he has. And then imagine that your company has just become “The World’s Favourite Website”. That’s the problem facing Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, which this week has beaten Google to the “Number One” slot in the USA – as well as a host of other countries, including The Phillipines, Indonesia and Malaysia. For most of the rest of the world, the 25-year-old billionaire has to settle for being second. But whichever way you look at it, there is only one way for Facebook – perhaps – downwards…!
Luckily, however, Mr Zuckerberg has something on his side that Willie Walsh can only dream of – internal harmony and a public that simply love his company’s products and services. Even with some detractors for Facebook – and the occasional negative headline – the environment in which Facebook operates is much more positive than the clouds of negativity that hang around Britain’s “flag carrier” airline. It means that any fall from grace is much less likely with Facebook than with British Airways.
And that’s important for your business too. New research confirms that Facebook is here to stay and has real value as a sales channel – even, perhaps, the Number One online sales channel. The study by iModerate shows that we actually love using Facebook to connect with companies, recommend their products and buy from them. The study goes further than previous research and shows that we sign up to become “fans” of businesses simply because we like them and their products. According to the research. we are more likely to buy from a company if we become one of their “fans” on Facebook. It’s even higher on Twitter, though, with two-thirds of people willing to buy from organisations they follow.
This study suggests that if you are not on Facebook you are missing out on an important sales channel. You are avoiding extending your relationships with your existing customers and making it less likely they will continue to buy from you. The traffic you are seeking for your website is actually now all over at Facebook. Instead of trying to drag them back, away from the place they enjoy, it’s going to be much easier for you to go visit them by establishing a presence on the social network itself.
And therein lies the real problem at British Airways. All their customers were over at the “no frills party”, while the bosses at BA were shouting “come over here, the Business Class is lovely”. What they really needed to do to stay as “the world’ favourite” was to do what the world wanted; they didn’t and that’s the basis for all their difficulties now. Facebook is clearly doing what the world wants. And that means if you continue to ignore Facebook’s business benefits you are going to be rather like BA, trying to distract people away from what they are enjoying and attempting to convince them that what you offer is much more enticing. Face up to it, Facebook dominates. Ride on that domination by putting your business on Facebook, rather than trying to fight against it with your own website.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+