04/17/2012 03:34 pm ET Updated Jun 17, 2012

Facebook: Is It Only A "Recreational" Drug For Social Media?

Unintentionally, I ended up doing a series of blogs comparing social media and drug use. Here is the latest and final installment of this blog series: Facebook as compared to a recreational drug.

Facebook has always been considered a "recreational" drug and has even been called "addicting" by those in the know. So, the obvious blog topic is the "recreational use" vs. the "serious" and business use of it as a platform. Most social media platforms today are evolving to blur the line between "recreational" side and the "serious" side of social engagement. You will find that LinkedIn has added features to allow for more personal information like volunteer work, while Facebook is trying to improve the business side of its social networking site. Each social media site is trying to diversify their offerings to better suit their users.

Because Facebook has its roots in personal networking, some find it difficult to make the leap from the perception of Facebook as a social (in a personal way) site to a social (in a business way) site.

There is a lot of debate around this topic including how and if certain types of businesses should position themselves and what might a potential Facebook strategy look like and accomplish. And so the conversation ensues around Facebook.

I would argue that 800 million active users qualify Facebook as a "serious" social media platform and "hard" drug. Although Facebook began to connect people, it has evolved as a place where people can interact with brands and engage more closely. It's a win-win situation for brands and the people who love them. Brands have access to users and feedback and people can feel more engaged and thus "sticky" in their brand loyalty. Doesn't sound like play to me!

Last week, Facebook announced a major and important change in the structure and layout of its brand pages. All brand pages will now be converted to their new timeline format. Firms with an existing Facebook presence will need to add things like cover photos and milestones, two of timeline's many features. Another new important timeline feature is the ability to high-resolute photos as a header as a way of promoting your firm's brand. Facebook brand timelines are very business-friendly and also give you the ability to "pin" stories onto the top of your news feed and be more visible for a period of up to seven days.

My professional time is spent in social media, traditional marketing and with financial services firms of all types. In my opinion, firms in financial services can benefit from Facebook social media marketing on a number of levels including community engagement (posting content designed to strengthen connections) customer service reporting (pages can be "swept" for situations needing to be addressed immediately) and client acquisition (the most important measure of any social media program's success). The client experience that your firm provides should lead to increase number of interactions with individuals and their willingness to "recommend" your brand to friends.

Corporate Insight performed a survey in 2011, which focused on social media usage within financial services firms. The study noted a rise of Twitter use in financial services firms as the most popular social media platform. Alan Maginn of Corporate Insight said, "In our opinion, Facebook is more of a relationship-driven community where as Twitter is more content-driven." He went on to say, "Facebook is a more challenging environment for businesses because in order to be successful, they must foster a relationship with their fans. With Twitter, they can concentrate more of the value of the content that they produce." Of course, this was before the new timeline mandate.

These banks were identified in the "International Private Banking Study 2011" by University of Zurich, "The World's 500 Largest Asset Managers" by Tower Watson and research by, a Swiss-based financial services research firm. All of Assetinum's data came from public sources. Here are some of their findings:

-- 33 of 50 banks surveyed maintained a Facebook account (enormous opportunity to create community)

-- 11 of those 33 posed minimum of 2 posts per day (increase amount to content postings to increase engagement)

-- 19 of 50 surveyed and said that their social media usage on Facebook was not integrated with other social media channels (they need to convey and communicate and engage with proper messaging on proper channels which echo the same message)

So here is the rub: Why aren't financial services firms (including those in private banking) using this important, free, global, community-based social media platform?

As I've noted with my other blog posts, marketing is moving into the digital age. These social media platforms are the present and will certainly evolve to become the basis of future marketing. If your firm is not fully engaged with each of these powerful tools, it is a losing effort to both attract new clients and retain existing ones. These platforms work because users are so addicted to them and it's now time for financial services firms and others to get addicted to them too.