Facebook + Moderation = Happiness

If you work in public relations, you have little choice but to be on Facebook.  If you’re not, you’ll be conspicuous by your absence.  After all, social media is likely an increasingly important element in your company or clients’ communications strategy — or perhaps the most important element — and you have to be walking the talk.

As PR and marketing pros, we have to understand Facebook’s role in any integrated communications campaign; we need to keep up with all of the platform updates from the ever-so-ambitious Facebook team; and, of course, we need to keep a watchful eye on how our competitors are using it to build their fan base.

We know “fans” spend money on (hopefully) the brands we represent as PR agents.  We understand that “fans” develop brand loyalty which compels them to buy over and over. And these same “fans” recommend our clients’ products and services via the Facebook version of word-of-mouth: by letting their fingers do the talking.

But for the hard-working, stressed-out and often maligned PR person, Facebook presents an interesting dilemma:  there’s Facebook for business-sake (and don’t we love showing off how smart we are with cool links and witty comments); and then there’s Facebook for our own sake. This is where Facebook can get a little tricky. When you consider how much time the average PR account person spends on Facebook on behalf of their own agency/company and clients in addition to “personal” time spent on Facebook, the minutes quickly add up to hours.

This is where Facebook can become, if you’re not careful, a total time suck.  This is where Facebook can rob one of time better spent on other activities like the relationship building part of the PR job, writing, reading a great book, exercising, sleeping or spending time with family and friends.

What prompted this post is a former client and a Facebook “friend” for the past couple of years caught the social media marketing wave some time ago and transformed herself into a fairly well-known social media maven (let’s call her Kim to protect the innocent).  Her posts were broad in scope and included marketing and PR trends, thoughts on blogging (including blogger burnout), trading paperbacks for e-readers and politics, among other topics. Kim is also very candid. She wears her heart on her sleeve, thus many of her posts were personal in nature, including how she felt about her job, the challenges of a recent job search, etc.

Well, about a week ago Kim hit the proverbial Facebook wall and announced, on Facebook of course, that she was leaving Facebook.  Mainly, Kim pointed to the time she spent on Facebook could be time better spent on more productive pursuits like reading novels (a passion) and being with family and friends.

Classic Facebook burnout.  And apparently Kim is not alone.

According to the latest stats I could find, Kim is among the 6 – 7 million US users who have left Facebook.   Relatively significant numbers of Canadians and Europeans are also giving Facebook the brush off.  Some of the reasons for leaving include rediscovering “real” friends, focusing more on work and family, and generally being more productive with spare time.

For the average PR person, however, leaving Facebook is not an option.  With nearly 900 million monthly active users and close to a half-billion daily global users, a presence on Facebook is necessary — at least for business sake.

With that said, when it comes to time spent on Facebook perhaps more PR and marketing pros should heed the words of the great Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero, who more than 2,000 years ago said, “Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide.”  As a result, I bet most of us would have a healthier relationship with Facebook, and with other things in life too.

I wonder what Kim is up to.