Facebook's blunt blocking of any Business Pages that loosely might be characterised as "news sites" has caused a stir within some sections of the Facebook community and wreaked havoc upon businesses whose marketing communication was all based on Facebook.
It's been sobering having a stream of messages from workshop participants who'd done any of my social media workshops that I've run since 2005, getting in touch to say, see Steve, you were right to warn us not to put all our eggs in the Facebook basket.
I say sobering because although larger news outlets like those run by Rupert Murdoch should indeed have the reach and resilience to absorb this action by Facebook (which Newscorp brought about through its powerful lobbying of the Federal Government), many small community sites like Glam Adelaide and The Adelaide Show Podcast, along with completely non-news-related businesses like Adelaide Haunted Horizons, have also been blocks.
This is a reminder that huge enterprises like Facebook and Newscorp, don't see the nuance and particular experiences of small players; they dwell in a macro world in which the sledgehammer has to hit that sideshow plate really hard to make the weight fly high enough to ring the bell in the stock market.
So what do businesses do when they are left to ask, who moved my Facebook?
Lessons from Who Moved My Cheese?
The short, 96-page business book, Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, is a simple story that is very pertinent today.
In it, two mice and two men scamper about the maze of life, searching for cheese.
When they eventually find a seemingly infinite supply in one section of the maze, they relax their guards and become complacent with the routine of wandering off daily to help themselves to another serving, without ever wondering what might happen if the cheese were no longer there?
Then, of course, one day it is gone.
The men become despondent and desperate and spend quite a while refusing to believe what's happened and trying to go through the daily motions in the hope that it's all been a dream.
The mice, on the other hand, scamper off in search of new sources.
The agility of the mice is praised while the inclination towards complacency by the men is something Johnson admonishes.
For many businesses in Australia today, it is a decision time. Do they break the comfortable and hitherto rewarding habits of relying on Facebook as their medium, or do they swing into action to build new methods of connection with their audiences?
Of course, it must be the latter.
Back to the fundamentals of digital marketing
As I've long preached, we must never build on the sandy base of a social media network because it might be gone tomorrow or the rules could change overnight.
Sadly, that's exactly what has happened for many businesses.
Ideally, we need to make sure we have the fundamentals of digital marketing in place, as Michael and I have been teaching earnestly over the past couple of years, using this formula.
You'll note how the most important element is a website.
This is the one thing you can count on still being there tomorrow.
Through your website you can build your reputation with users and Google by crafting content that answers questions and by employing easy methods for visitors to contact you, ask questions, or place orders.
Blogging is a powerful element within your website, for reasons discussed here: To blog or not to blog? Consider the 9 benefits of blogging before you answer
But, so to, is your newsletter, enabling you to share links to helpful articles and contact your audience directly with offers or important updates.
If those fundamentals have been seriously and earnestly addresses and developed, a Facebook block would amount to an annoyance rather than a catastrophe.
Advertising and social media are items to address only once the other fundamentals are in place.
Advertising can be handy for getting messages out in a hurry but, unlike the effort that goes into blogging, the moment you end your ads the the power and efficacy disappears. Blogs, however, endure forever!
Social media for "most" businesses has a really tiny impact on the bottom line but is emotionally rewarding when owners see likes and comments. It definitely needs a strategy so that energy spent here is tied to SMART goals.
So, for businesses blocked by Facebook today, this article has no magic bullets other than to consider using personal accounts to temporarily urge committed "fans" to make sure they have subscribed directly to your newsletters, and by planning a strategic newsletter blast with some thoughtful actions and offers you'd like your audience to consider so you can stay in each others' orbits.
Instead, it is a gentle reminder to take stock of the fundamentals and look for new piles of "cheese" while guarding against settling for any perceived bounty ever again.
PS The image here is of my character, Professor Sebastian Longsword, who is doing an Adelaide Fringe show entitled, A Lunchtime MBA, in which you can come for a lunch and leave with an MBA. It will be a lot of fun. However, in the marketing for the show, the Professor decided to do some Wine and Text Book Pairings and Who Moved My Cheese whas one of them.