By J.C. Kendall – CEO of TekPersona Corporation, Social Media Today – December 2nd, 2012

A few weeks ago, Mark Cuban caught dissension from all over the Internet for calling Facebook a “Time Waster”. The purpose of this article is to point out the simple fact that for Businesses, he could not have been more correct. If you run a business, and you are looking to make money through driving people from Facebook to your products or services, Facebook is very likely not in any way worth the amount of time or expense required.

Commercial Intent almost never exists on Social Media

In 2011, Google, through its AdWords advertising service represented 9% of all Online ads on the Internet. CTR (Click Through Rates) on ads on Google resulted in sales revenue to the tune of 36.4 Billion Dollars. In 2011, Facebook represented 17.1% of Online Advertising. Facebook Ad revenue in 2011 returned 3.7 Billion dollars. Again, allow me to summarize. Facebook advertisements almost doubled those of Google in 2011. Facebook revenue from advertisements was barely one tenth that of Google.

So, why did Google make 10 times as much as Facebook last year on just over half as many advertisements? The answer is “Commercial Intent“. When people are shopping, they have what is called Commercial Intent, which means they are looking for something they want to purchase. It is no different from back in the days of searching through the Yellow Pages for a business that is selling what you are interested in buying. Your Commercial Intent is to find those who provide what you are looking for.

Commercial Intent does not exist on Social Media, because the overwhelming percentage of its users is not there for shopping. They are there for the purpose of conversation and interaction with others. Bradley Horowitz, the Google VP in charge of Google+ recently likened an advertisement on Facebook to a man wearing a Sandwich sign walking up to a couple of people having a conversation on a sidewalk. The advertisement is an unwelcome interruption.

Only on rare occasions will someone welcome something that interrupts him or her to the point of interest. It is usually an accidental reminder of Commercial Intent, not initiated by the potential buyer. Facebook and its advertisements have the burden of convincing, or reminding a viewer to the point of interest. When someone performs a search for an item on Google, the commercial intent already exists. Hence, ads placed next to high ranking sites which offer what the searcher is looking for have a much higher likelihood of influencing conversion of the searcher into a customer.

Facebook claims 500M active users per month out of a total user base of over 1 Billion people. These numbers are the reason that so many businesses are attracted to place ads on Facebook. The potential for reaching this size of an audience rarely exists. By comparison, in 2011 Google averaged 4.7 Billion search queriesPER DAY. The largest potential audience for persons with Commercial Intent is obviously resident at Google. So, why are more ads purchased on Facebook, than on “Social Media Expert”.

There are very few of these persons willing to discuss the efficacy of an ad placed on Facebook, and the likelihood of a customer conversion resulting from same. Make no mistake, there are many businesses making money from their Facebook presence, through a systematic approach of advertising to a curated audience of relevant Facebook friends.

The drawback to this approach, is that Facebook is now charging (some say penalizing) businesses to communicate with the very audiences they worked hard to build. Unless a business is willing to pay a fee based upon the number of followers, it is limited to communicating with between only 5 to 15% of their curated audience. Not only that, the members of that limited group are selected not by the business, but by Facebook. The algorithm for this determination is called “Edge Rank”. That’s right, businesses cannot relay customized messages to targeted segments they define themselves.

In my opinion, this practice represents a total “Bait and Switch” approach to Social Media, in addition to a conflict of Interest. A business on Facebook is no longer working only for their interests, but Facebook’s, in that the more users a business attracts, the more they must pay Facebook to communicate with that audience in full.

Bottom Line: Social Media is for Branding, not Selling

The true value of Social Media is in that it provides a very effective forum for both Corporate (business) and Personal Branding. Through a presence on forums like Facebook, Google+, Twitter and others, the opportunity exists to build trust, subject authority and a reputation for problem solving. This trusted reputation is the essence of a Brand. A positive review of a business posted on Social Media is more valuable than 100 advertisements. A posted endorsement from other trusted authorities is near priceless, for it cannot be purchased, but only earned.

One of the things we remind our clients at TekPersona, is that nobody buys anything of true value from a stranger, except for gasoline and gummi bears. Social Media serves the invaluable purpose of turning strangers into acquaintances, acquaintances into an audience and only THEN, an audience into potential customers.