I was somewhat surprised to read an article this morning by a venture capital associate claiming that Facebook is no longer a viable marketing solution for startups, something which is completely unsupported in her article.
The title probably should have been “Why the Facebook Platform Is No Longer Viral,” which is a much more legitimate claim. Sarah Tavel, who authored the post, argues that Facebook is no longer like it used to be in 2007, when applications could become massive overnight.
The problem with her argument is that she uses social media-based startups to represent all Internet-based startups, which is outlandish to say the least. Typically I wouldn’t take the time to break down why her argument is invalid, but after seeing it on Techmeme I had to write a quick post.
I should note that Sarah is not suggesting that Facebook is no longer a viable marketing channel, but rather that it will lose its appeal in the future. While the social network could theoretically lose some of its appeal (and already has for some entrepreneurs), it remains to be one of the top if not the single best marketing channel. While there are numerous application developers who benefitted from the early platform days (Zynga, Playfish, etc.), there are plenty of business that can thank Facebook for much of their growth.
For example, Groupon could not have become the fastest growing business ever had it not been for social media channels, primarily Facebook. Despite the Facebook platform not having as many overnight successes as was the case during 2007, the Facebook news feed is still a massive source of traffic for many online publications, including the Huffington Post, which just sold for hundreds of millions of dollars.
While I don’t think any startup should make a Facebook page the primary channel for new customers, implementing a like button as well as other basic social media marketing strategies is still practically mandatory for any new startup.
The bottom line: There is no way that Facebook will lose its relevance for startups looking to gain traction. There are still plenty of communication channels which can be leveraged by small startups looking to grow.