Is Facebook more important that your own website?

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Last night I was watching the Man United Liverpool game for a few minutes.  I don't really watch football but it was kicking off big time in the first few minutes with an early goal from Liverpool and then a penalty for Utd.  It was momentarily engrossing in the same way that watching a bunch of drunks kick the crap out of each other might be momentarily engrossing. 

Anyway, I'm already digressing.  I noticed that there was a URL being advertised on the pitch-side display for Barclays Football – it was something to do with Barclays anyway. What was interesting to me was that this was a Facebook page URL – the url was www.facebook.com/barclays_something_or_other …. 

It reminded me of a recent trend I have noticed on the BBC World Service where the program hosts now encourage listeners to visit their programme's Facebook page rather than the respective BBC website section. Certainly the Facebook page is mentioned more often that their own website.  This is even the case on mainstream full-on news shows like World Briefing – I'm not just talking about the techie shows like Digital Planet.

Why is this I wonder?  Is it that the BBC and others want to grab involvement from people without expecting them to leave the Facebook environment?  Is it the fact that all the Social Media functionality is already there working and available without any bandwidth issues?  Any ideas? And what does this mean for company's own domains and properties?

Social Media Expectations – Starhub and Resorts World Sentosa

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Resorts World Sentosa's Facebook Fan Page

I was asked to participate in a social media panel a month or so ago as part of a lecture course for INSEAD MBA students.  It was there last lecture on Social Media and I, along with 4 or so other people, were asked to field questions from the students.

In the couple of days leading up to the panel I had tried to engage with a couple of Singapore brands via Facebook and Twitter.  My opinion had always been up to that evening that if a brand was to have a Facebook or Twitter presence then I should rightly expect to receive an answer to any query or question I may have about their products or services within a day or so.  One of these brands was Starhub and I have had some quick and useful responses from them on genuine queries I have had. They have been very responsive over the last week on a specific issue (below)

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Some interaction with Starhub(cares)

However, on the days leading up to the panel I had asked Starhub a question and it had not been answered and I arrived at the panel venue all ready to huff and puff about this one incident. (Un)fortunately, there was a fellow panelist who worked for the agency that does a lot of work for Starhub including their twitter presence.  Anyway, I huffed and I puffed to the crowd including this guy when the opportunity arose about this one incident of no reply whilst trying to temper it with several mentions of good contact from them.

After the planel, I had the chance to speak with the guy from the agency – Vocanic (I can't remember his name – sorry) – and I got to asking myself whether or not it is indeed reasonable to expect an individually tailored reply to every query.  My benchmark has been heavily influenced by a 'campaign' I have been following from Resorts World Sentosa (top of post) who, without fail, have responded to every post and tweet I have directed at them even when it has been to simply acknowledge their excellent work. I still can't help scanning down their fan page to see if they routinely address every individual who has a question and I think that they do.  They kept doing this during some slightly turbulent times too when there was some negative chatter over the soft launch date and one or two other issues.

This is just one level of engagement I suppose and it's not far off what I have experienced with Starhub I suppose.  Indeed the one 'non-reply' from Starhub stuck out all the more because of their general consistency in responding to me.

My question is should we continue (if at all) to expect this individual service and response from organizations who choose to engage with us on Facebook and Twitter?  What should our expectations be? and how might those expectation change over the next couple of years.  I was listening to a guy on the BBC World Service this morning who clearly defined Social Media marketing as 'peer to peer' in distinguishing it from more traditional advertizing.  Maybe he still expects a personal responses but I wonder for how long he might get one…