These days I can’t get through a presentation on the use of social media in marketing without someone inquiring whether they should use Facebook as the primary web presence for their business.

“I mean, it’s free and look at all these cools tools you can add to your Fan Page.”

Let me be very clear on my thinking on this: Facebook is not the house, Twitter is not the house, your social profiles spread far and wide are not the house.

Your hub, your blog, your website—that’s the house. Build the house, fix the house, decorate the house and invite the party to the house, because it’s the one thing you can own and control. It’s an asset you can grow rather than space you simply rent.

Your activity in social media is all about building a persona and brand that draws people to the house, whether you’re a plumbing contractor, consultant, or someone that wants to create a path to a better career. Build rich and engaging hubs on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or wherever your prospects hang out, but remember you’re always going home.

Focusing too much attention on your Facebook play is like spending a bunch of time decorating and fixing up a neighbor’s house while they are traveling Europe for a year or two. It may be a nice place to throw a party or entertain, but you don’t really own it.

An issue of control

The greatest reason I take this stance is because of control. You don’t control what’s being said, contributed and added to a social network profile like Facebook. You get to rent the space, but anytime Facebook decides it wants to remodel, you have no say.

A lot of smart online folks are raving about Facebook’s recent addition of a commenting tool that integrates with blog commenting systems like WordPress. There are a couple features with this tool that, on the surface, are alluring—comments made on your blog are automatically posted to the person’s Facebook profile for example.

However, here’s what should be the deal killer for anyone considering this tool. The comments don’t sync with your WordPress database, which is another way of saying Facebook now owns your blog comments. Facebook has done nothing that demonstrates them worthy of this kind of trust.

Keep this very important distinction in mind—you’re not a Facebook customer, you’re part of the product that they sell—and that makes all the difference in how they view you.

But, fix up the house

I hope you understand that the real house isn’t the physical real estate that I’m calling your blog or website, it’s the way you interact with customers, your email correspondence, your words, your consistency, your ease of use, your responsiveness, your use of video—all the things we’ve come to collectively call your brand.

There’s little value in working hard to attract people to the house if the foundation is cracked or the chairs aren’t cozy to sit in. You can certainly blow a bunch of cash on expensive art for the walls, but the real money might be better spent on making the house as guest friendly and comfortable as possible.

It’s just different in there

Here’s the other thing about relying on social networks as a primary commerce tool. It’s not an effective pipeline for most marketing related calls to actions. So, even the gentle come by our open house will likely fall flat.

I’ve experienced countless examples of people with huge followings promoting a book launch of even free webinar with little or no response while a mention on that same person’s blog makes the cash register ring loudly.

The porch is the bridge

Since social media relationships are so easily formed and mostly casual in nature, you must go to work on building reasons for people you engage in these settings to gather on the porch first. Do that and you’ll start to form the personal engagement to move them to the party—your blog or email list.

Most people’s marketing efforts in social media fall flat for that single reason alone. No matter how engaging your efforts seem on Facebook, they’ll never match the power of your email list or loyal blog following.

It’s not enough to get followers and fans, you must create the bridge that leads them to the house and that’s a step that eludes the social media first mindset.

Facebook and Twitter have an appropriate place in the overall brand and business building efforts, but you’ll never find your social media efforts paying off unless you invest appropriately in the house.

This post originally appeared on AMEX OPENForum

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • I’d like to give you a big hug for this! In the south people are known for their hospitality. We like to have you come by and sit a spell, prop your feet up and tell us what’s going on. That same type of attitude can, and should be, offered through any business. Social media is a great introduction, but who wants to follow you home if all you find is a blank lot?

    • That’s right, and would you care for some sweet tea hon? (sorry, I was in Nashville last week and I heard that more than once)

  • Great post, John. I get it all the time – and sometimes from businesses where it doesn’t make sense for them to be on Facebook at all, never mind have it as their primary online presence. Thanks for this post!

    • I guess it’s because we see that the airport parking spot want us to Like them on Facebook

  • Guest

    A cpl of my clients get more traction on facebook than on their blog. Not everyone is ‘built to blog’, which inspires my next blog post…ironically:). Another client rocks yahoo!answers and gets more traction there. So ultimately it probably depends on where the ‘party’ (your customers) is :). You may miss the party if you stay home.
    I do agree that your with ‘it’s the way you interact with customers’ though. After all, you have to get invited to the party.

    • The traction somewhere outside of your own hub comes at the expense of investing in your own hub, when Facebook changes direction again or Yahoo shuts down answers (not at all unlikely) your clients will scramble for yet another card board box!

      • Guest

        Hubs may not be centralized and could also be an aggregate of third party sites (which will wax and wane). I think we are seeing the first wave of the move to this direction.
        We could have apps that pulls it all together. OR software that aggregates all the mentions and displays them from one ‘Account’. So ‘Duct tape marketings’ HUB could be a page that contains all the third party social outposts displayed as one whole.

        Over all I think the marketing community over emphasizes on blogs…though I admit- maybe with good reason (as of now). Self hosted blogs could easily evolve to aggregate of microblogs(twitter) and FB updates/albums etc.

        I think blogs are too much of work for the average business who will jump on to easier ways to consolidate effort.

        There’s a blog post in there. And some where there is also a tech entrepreneur trying to make it easier for businesses and individuals to get their messages out easier.

    • I recently blogged about whether you really need a business blog as well – even if a client isn’t committed to blogging (or it’s not a good match for their business), they at least need an engagement platform that’s outside of social media. A few pages, social media contacts and a contact form – these should be the minimum for any company that wants to hold control of their own marketing.

  • Excellent post. I had this conversation with a business just last week. They thought Facebook was all they needed. I’m going to direct them to your post. I completely agree that you don’t have total control with social media. Your web site and/or your blog gives you the control you need to get your message across. Social media just adds to it.

    • Some have interpreted this post to be anti-social media, but that’s not the point at all – As you’ve pointed out social media can add to and greatly amplify your message, but only to the degree that you invest in the house.

  • Thanks for the post.

    I think your “house” analogy was clever and consistent. I definitely agree with you that social media platforms alone are not the key to a successful marketing strategy plan. It’s only in collaboration with “your house” that you can create a truly consistent, holistic plan. Here is a great SocialTimes article I read Check it out and let me know your thoughts.


  • I think you make a great point…can’t really write a blog post in a status area with a limit of 420 characters now can you. But you can write a really kicking blog post and have it feeding to your fan page and twitter, that would be considered marketing. I agree, make your blog or website a place where people like to congregate and gather to read great content and leave their commentary. Your house becomes a place that your readers can always rely on you to host a great discussion or debate. Then you can step on on the front lawn and gather with your neighbors and be social.

  • Great analogy that makes perfect sense. I appreciate that you have reinforced that businesses should be using Facebook (and social media in general) for its intended purpose… social interaction. Facebook is a wonderful tool for businesses, but nothing turns people off faster than having to endure relentless sales pitches on a social network. It is like going to a party and being stuck talking to the guy who only wants to talk about himself. Social media should be a two way conversation, not a place to list anything and everything about your business.

  • Amen! I’m sharing this post with a few clients. Your hub can be fueled by social media – but you still need that hub!

  • Thank you for this eloquent post, John. This is the starting point of every interview, teleseminar and conversation I have with clients about blogging and social media. I often liken the social outposts as being at cocktail parties. Eventually you want to invite your friends over for a dinner party at your home where you can go deeper with the conversation and connection. Blog on!

  • Great information. To many small businesses today think that they can capture a huge audience with facebook and then all will be good. It is important to remember that it is only a tool, nothing more than any other advertising option that is out there. Your website should still be your key to your business since it is basically a virtual storefront. Making sure that is nice is the best way to ensure that you are capturing the internet crowd that you want.

  • I agree, John. There are so many teaching that a Facebook Page is all you need. When Facebook changes the rules, will they affect your site. At least with your site and blog you have control. I’m not putting my eggs all in one basket or in the Facebook basket in this case.

    • Yep – I think people misunderstand their relationship with Facebook – you are not a Facebook customer, you are part of their product – that’s the key distinction that makes this a shaky place to build upon.

  • Clyde

    You hit this nail smack on the head. Here is another article that reinforces this concept:

    Why would I let Facebook own my database of interactions with my customers. Remember several years ago when the sun did not set on the AOL flag.

    • Yep – not to mention that those interactions become an asset over time.

  • Ctejada Mallorca

    Great Post! Thanks for post it! I am learning with your comments and suggestions every day!

  • Mshuda

    Great article with great leadership. Left out maybe one thing….what happens when Facebook goes the way of Myspace and the next big thing comes along…and it will. Through your explanation your blog can provide the feeds and insight to the next big thing! Thanks to Charles Ruffing from Ruffing Consulting to turning me on to John Janstsch. Every CEO and small business owner should be participating in this blog. I think it removes the hype from reality.
    Thanks for the opportunity!

  • Jlachaux

    People choose to use facebook because it is the most WIDELY USED. Facebook is growing more and more everyday…if its not the house then it must be the football stadium. It allows anyone anywhere to relay their message to nearly a billion followers. No small marketing niche can come close to that. E-mail lists and blog followers are irrelevant; when a consumer can match a brand to a photo or image (something they can physically touch/have access to/concrete) the company wins.

  • Great to see the message I have given to people for quite some time now reinforced by your post. The presence on the social web should be considered like embassies or outposts for listening, learning and engaging. The website is the headquarters and core of the business. With this approach businesses will also start to understand that social web engagement has to be part of an overall, objectives based marketing effort and not some separate activity best done by an intern.

  • Hi John,
    We so agree with your position here. Folks, including clients are intoxicated on the facebook Koolaide. There is a place for Facebook, as you point out, but get your house in order first. Well said John,

  • Yes, it is better to spend more and more time on Facebook every business owner should have his own website where visitor could come to find the services that he requires. just having fan page is nothing and not reliable source for your visitor whether he trust on you or not.

  • Rose

    yes, facebook is an avenue and I have a page there as well as YOUTuBE..
    my leads come from vets/groomers and I source them daily..I know where
    the leads are coming from..Facebook is an avenue..not my main source at all..
    thank you for article, Rose America’s No. 1 Pet Sitter ! Las Vegas, NV

  • questionguy

    so you think that what YOU say about your restaurant is more important than what OTHER (independent, objective) people say about your restaurant?


    not sure on that…