Why Facebook Stores Are Failing

Content, audience and engagement. Facebook has it all. So why are brands apparently struggling to sustain a business case for their Facebook Stores?

In the past year alone, Gap Inc, Nordstrom, J.C. Penney and Gamestop have opened and subsequently closed Facebook Stores. How can this be? All the ingredients for a successful online retail venture appear to exist, yet in practise the result seems half-baked. Why?

To find the answer, we should first remind ourselves why Facebook has become such a phenomenon in the first place: Quite simply, it’s a great place to hang out, meet, and interact with likeminded people. Its a round-the-clock party, hosted by friends, in a familiar venue, with constantly changing decor. (No surprise it was originally called Faceparty).

The fact is, people party to socialise, not to buy stuff. How many parties do you attend where suddenly, an uninvited guest buts into your conversation weilding a pop-up store? Almost certainly none. And why? Becuase it’s a social faux pas. It’s a turn-off. It’s party pooping of the highest order. And it’s a real challenge for Facebook.

“We just didn’t get the return on investment we needed from the Facebook market, so we shut it down pretty quickly. For us, it’s been a way we communicate with customers on deals, not a place to sell.” – Ashley Sheetz, vice president of marketing and strategy, Gamestore.

A perfect place for people to converse and recommend stuff, it seems Facebook has yet to resolve the natural aversion its users have to bridging the apparently logical step between recommendation and transaction. The problem is, since when has logic figured in socialising with mates? A party based on logic? Be there to be square…

Batman's cape had seen better days

Advertisement

Content [is/is not] King (delete as appropriate)

An interesting debate was sparked within LinkedIn’s Chief Content Officer group today. It centred around the (now rather tiresome) adage that ‘Content is King.’ It began when Ben Dorsey, a VP Marketing and Communications in Indiana, suggested that if Content is King, the organisation of that content is Queen. Disagreeing with this viewpoint (and struggling with the premise that organisation of anything can be particularly regal) I waded into the debate and aired my view that content isn’t ‘King,’ and that in fact, as suggested by the writer and activist Cory Doctorow, content is just something to talk about. It is actually the conversation triggered by the contentthat actually wears the crown. (continued..)

Who wears the crown?

(By way of warning, the liberal use of metaphors in this debate only gathers pace from this point on).

Stephen Berner, a content creator in NY, believes there is no King or Queen. Rather, there are multilple plates to be spun, ‘at the same velocity,’ and ‘incrementally dialled up.’ ‘Content is useless,’ he says, ‘unless it can be found..’

Margot Carmichael Lester, a content strategist from North Carolina, suggests that ‘..regardless of who wears the crown, CCOs and other content managers need to be the power behind the throne..’

King, Queen, Throne, Crown, Plates, Power, whatever, it seems to me that Ben’s original comment, his original content and the ensuing conversation, confirms that relevant content, made available at the right time, in the right format, for the right audience, inevitably triggers all-important conversation..

Have a read of the exchange in context in the LinkedIn CCO group.

Holidays mean Facebook games right? Wrong.

An interesting article posted by Tricia Duryee on AllThingsD today, appears to confirm, if confirmation were needed, the need for businesses of all kinds to ensure they take mobile into account both for product and for engagement.

The article, entitled ‘Americans Played Anything but Social Games During the Holidays,‘ explains that during the Christmas period, when people are away from work and no longer spending prolonged periods in front of a computer, participation in online games via Facebook dropped considerably.

Whilst it’s no surprise that a great deal of social interaction via Facebook takes place at the workplace, the scale of the apparent dropoff during the holiday period may well raise some eyebrows at Facebook.

Contrast the drop with the gains made in mobile and there’s a clear case to ensure mobile is part of the marketing mix for the coming year. A statement of the obvious perhaps, but the AllThingsD article is the first time I’ve seen activity contrast so markedly during a crucial period for measuring and guaging social attitudes.

Create an impact with a viral marketing method first used in 1919

This afternoon above the steets of Manhattan, I witnessed a light aircraft ‘write’ a number of short phrases in the sky. Today was a particularly warm and cloudless day so the streets and parks were thronged with people, most of whom gazed skyward as the apparently unrelated phrases painted their way slowly and somewhat errily above Manhattan’s west side.

Cue a Twitter frenzy. What did these prases mean? Who was behind them? And why, of all the phrases was ‘LAST CHANCE’ one of them? Unsurprisingly, every phrase instantly warranted its own hashtag, as did ‘skywriting’ of course.

Written in the sky over Manhattan. But is it art?

Reactions varied from the near hysterical (one Tweet, from a man in Brooklyn said he and his family had begun packing their car to flee the city) to the downright dismissive. Either way, a conversation was suddenly under way, and on a darned large scale. The consensus was that this was clearly a marketing stunt and we would discover the meaning in due course.

Turns out, the messages were not marketing related at all (at least not unless you’re really cynical). No, the messages were in fact, public art. Now I’m no art critic but for the 30 minutes or so it took to complete and subsequently lose the artwork on the wind, I was as transfixed as much of New York City. Powerful stuff. Stuff which was apparently first performed in 1919.