Facebook is useless for business – isn’t it?

Facebook is useless for business – that’s what “everyone” says isn’t it? Yes, everywhere you go in business circles these days you can find any number of people who tell you not to waste your time trying to do business on Facebook. It is great for big brands, they’ll tell you, but it cannot help small or medium sized businesses very much, particularly those in the “business to business” arena. People around the individuals saying this nod sagely in agreement.

Similarly, when you go to business networking events you can find several people who all agree that Twitter is a waste of time for business. It’s all about people saying they’re eating jam sandwiches, they say. And besides, no-one I know of has made any money from it, they all agree.

Popular wisdom it’s called. And it doesn’t just apply to social networks.

For instance, there is plenty of material written in books and online about “left brain” and “right brain”, explaining how each side of the brain is devoted to specific kinds of functions making one side of your brain creative and the other logical. Indeed, you will often hear people talking of others as being “so left-brained”. It all seems to make sense, of course, apart from the fact that there is no real evidence to support this notion.

Then you hear people say that 83% of all communication is “non-verbal” citing “research” which proves it. Except that there was no such research and even the person quoted as providing the research has said several times it is not true. Even so, people still believe it.

The “facts” that you know about the business use of Twitter and Facebook, the notion of being left or right-brained and the “proof” that most communication is non-verbal are all the same things – misinformation.

The real problem is, we start to believe it. New research from Australian psychologists shows why this happens. It turns out that it is all to do with “cognitive effort”. When “everyone” around us appears to believe in something – such as Twitter is only about jam sandwiches – then it takes less mental effort to agree than it does to disagree. Humans are primed to do things which take the least effort because that helps survival. So, when it comes to mental tasks like deciding whether or not we agree with something we opt for the least difficult thing.

The problem is worsened it seems when the people who tell us these so-called “facts” are people we like and trust, such as our friends. When they appear to believe in the “fact” that Facebook is no good for business, then we’ll tend to agree too – it requires even more cognitive effort to disagree with your friends and people you trust. Hence we shy away from it.

So, how can you correct misinformation and get people to start understanding the real truth?
The answer it seems is to avoid referring to the misinformation itself, but instead to focus on just stating the real facts in brief. So here are some facts:

  • Facebook can help your business make more money
  • Twitter has been responsible for several businesses improving their profitability

4 thoughts on “Facebook is useless for business – isn’t it?”

  1. facebook is only marginally useful for business – marginally better than having no Web presence. It does not mirror the way we operate psychologically in the real work and it only scratches the surface in terms of the potential of the Internet. New and superior business models will emerge. Social Media as it stands is really only an extension of mass broadcast advertising that pretends it is community and person centric. It is not.

    • Thanks for your comment – you make an important point about the issue of social media because many people do appear to believe it does more than scratch the surface. However, there are plenty of businesses who have earned millions through Facebook, so I doubt if they would call it “marginally useful”.

      • Thanks for your response. I was not being flippant. In Australia up to 60% of small business is not meaningfully on line and the same figure applies to most developed economies. It is hard for small (and big) business to get on line effectively. It it not just about getting online. It is about connecting, communicating and collaborating in a meaningful way. The advertising meme that has been used in the past does not work that well across the Internet. Hence FB is good for experimentation but new business models will emerge.

        • I didn’t mean to imply you were being flippant, sorry. You make another good point. Here in the UK the latest figures I have seen show that 48% of business still do not have a website. So I agree, there is lots still to do and we are certainly still in experimental times.

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