A few days ago Italian web pundit and entrepreneur Marco Camisani Calzolari published “Escape from Facebook“, which was widely announced on social media and presented, in its Italian version, at the Lower House in Rome. Camisani Calzolari has been recently in the international news for his research on fake followers, which raised substantial interest as well as some criticism by those – like myself – who could not find sufficient rigor in his research.
I purchased the book (in its kindle version on Amazon) out of curiosity, despite a bit of prejudice caused by the author’s prior research and his not totally untarnished reputation (see my previous blog post and a post by an Italian blogger challenging some of the author’s credentials).
The book is rather short and an easy read, although I suspect that the Italian version might be more polished (the English one cries for an editor). It suggests that focusing too much on external social media, and on Facebook in particular, may lead to losing or possibly alienating users, clients and prospects, depending in how Facebook’s terms and conditions evolve. He mentions data from surveys showing that people who follow a certain brand on Facebook tend not to buy the brand’s product, while people who join more “vertical social networks” (i.e. those addressing a niche that is more closely related to the product or service) have higher propensity to buy.
Besides instilling some healthy doubt about investing too much on a single social media platform, the book offers platitudes (such as that Facebook is a means and not an end, something that I would argue most digital marketing people already know), very limited research evidence (most data is drawn from two studies, one from 8th Bridge and one from Get Satisfaction and the Incyte Group, both mentioned multiple times throughout the book) and no detailed advice.
What is supposed to be the highlight of this work, the so-called “Back Home Strategy”(BHS), is simply a suggestion for companies to bring back users to a digital place that is under their control.
My digital home is my base camp. It is a place that represents me clearly and officially. It comprises my company website, associated blogs and forums, extensions of the website dedicated to special projects, e-commerce stores, and my communities and vertical social networks.
The author runs a business that, according to his LinkedIn profile, “develops modular web platforms supporting the Communication and the advanced digital Marketing. It creates custom-made products and offers strategic consulting for companies which want to manage at their best the new online digital communication instruments”. This casts doubt that his call for a “back home strategy” is completely selfless.
Additional BHS tools that the author mentions are mobile applications and Facebook applications. The book provides four examples of BHS (political campaign, e-tailer, an artist and a petitioning platform), but does not share quantitative details about how much interaction (and value) can be attributed to the “home” part and how much to the Facebook (or other mainstream social media).
The book ends almost suddenly on a section that poses an interesting question: “Is the Back Home Strategy for me?”. Unfortunately it does not give any concrete answer nor a hint to a decision framework for readers to apply the book’s (rather limited) wisdom in their context.
What the book misses most though is that Facebook and the likes are not only a tool for digital marketing but can be a tool for employees working in customer service, operations, procurement, technology services, finance, human capital management and so forth. Social media can be an essential part of an employee’s workplace and both horizontal and vertical social networks are tools that they can use to become more effective and productive in their respective roles.
In conclusion, I would agree that if marketing and business managers do not understand by now that Facebook is not an end but a means, they have a problem. However if they feel they can use the little advice in this book, then they are really in trouble.