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The “Facebook” Journey – And Why I Deleted Our Facebook Pages

The Broken Facebook Journey

Update – 4/5/18 – This story was really well received… if by that we point out we had lots of comments and shares. The feedback has been from both side of the debate, which is what we want.

One thing I will re-emphasis, is that is post is about “Facebook PAGES,” and how brands use them, not about personal profiles.

Broken Relationship

Redlands, CA – by Jon Burgess – part of our series The “_______” Journey.

It is hard to admit relationships go bad and die, especially when you have invested time and money in them.

Today I deleted our Facebook pages.  The relationship had been dead for some time.

I teach Social Media at a university, I have been a marketing consultant for 20 years, and one of my core strategies is centered on “Relationship Marketing.” When I met Facebook, it was 100% about relationships.

As a marketing tool (which is what makes Facebook all its money), I had to admit that my data was telling me that Facebook pages had been worthless for years. It showed NO positive business metrics that could convince me to recommend it to my own clients.

Facebook preys on people, habits, and emotions, and in the end, Facebook has straight out betrayed our trust.

So, in following my own business advice about data and relationships, I deleted all of our company pages – even our InlandEmpire.US page – because our trust has been broken.


My Facebook Journey

My brother came home from college over a break and told me about Facebook, which he said, “…is way better than MySpace.” That was November of 2004.

MySpace tanked because of terrible design and because users were not able to build relationships in a meaningful way.

Facebook allowed for building and maintaining relationships. It was a genius idea.

Even today, many of my colleagues in the advertising world still think Facebook is great. (I hope they read this.)

Are there still positive aspects of Facebook? Yes! Anyone who shares anything to their personal page provides valuable referrals to businesses. If you are a relationship person, then great, make friends. Don’t build a page to wall off your relationships. Sharing is caring, and if you are willing to tell your friends about anything of value, please continue to do so. That’s actually how relationships work.


Free Facebook

Facebook gave away the farm for free. Everyone jumped on, even businesses.  And, to be honest I never thought it was going to send our clients much traffic, because people enjoyed the experiences of interacting with their friends inside of Facebook. Not shopping.

As free Facebook pages built up, followers and business started growing. I even went to Facebook a course where they bought us lunch to listen to their pitch.

As fast as businesses jumped into Facebook, they started posting ads in their timeline. Businesses themselves broke the rules of relationships. They didn’t really want to talk to their customers – instead opting for “Sales” and “Coupons.” That was the first problem I saw with Facebook. It quickly lost quality with business ignoring relationships. What it keeps coming back to is relationships. Facebook created the most powerful relationship marketing tool that the world of commerce has ever known and in turn, offered up actual relationships as the fatted calf.

For five years I have proven to clients and students that Facebook has failed to deliver traffic. Most recently, I offered as evidence an account with 35,000 followers that got less than .04% engagement. To put 35,000 followers and such a low engagement in perspective, it simply means Facebook has blocked your own followers from seeing your posts.

Our sites are just the same – they are statistically worthless, and I am a data nerd. The data for traffic from all social sites to websites is pathetic. Even if you are auto-posting blogs or news, where you really spend no time in Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, they still don’t pencil out to be a positive effect on your website.

Our best site drives 4.46% of our monthly traffic. And, if you look at how that happened, it was from shares, not posts to our Facebook pages.


Paid Facebook

If the goal was to build relationships, that all changed when Facebook went public. Now they had to build value for stockholders. And just like business pages failing at building relationships with their customers, Facebook immediately forgot its own relationship with users.

In 2014, I first reported that Facebook was pulling businesses’ postings from timelines. I was lucky enough to hear a VP show a Coca-Cola advertising story. It was interesting that they understood that brands were having a real hard-time connecting to people, and the campaign was a legitimate attempt to connect with their consumer base.  You can see a slide deck and video I created in 2014,

Product brands don’t think about relationships very well. They think about number of items sold. So, it was no wonder that Facebook was putting on a sales show with a huge brand like Coca-Cola – hoping to trick other brands into their platform.

Meanwhile, Facebook was taking away the “Free Traffic” businesses had grown comfortable with using. Your business now had to pay for that pleasure (as a business person I understood that reality).

As for Facebook ads, I have placed ads and they seem to work fairly-well on the surface. They always use up my money, which was concerning. I drove reasonable views or follows. But, when trying to take people off-site to our client’s websites, that’s where the data collapsed. It was not converting.

Compared to Google Ads, Facebook users were just never in the mood to buy. And when you dive into the demographics of the power users in Facebook. It is clear that, most often, they were just mindlessly browsing. And I have always hated trying to account for “branding or brand awareness” campaigns in reporting Facebook conversions to my clients. They did not produce!

In Recent News:

Finally, the boss admitted they failed our trust and went offline: Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg apologized for “a breach of trust” in a series of print ads this weekend.


Facebook the Overlord

For Facebook, the gold to be made in a public offering wasn’t from connecting people and building relationships. The gold was in data.

And Facebook has been using data in strange and un-genuine ways for eight or ten years. The first important thing about data that I noticed was how well Obama ran his campaign in 2008 and again in 2012 in Facebook. I regularly would show my students how Obama out played the field in social media.

Facebook is in your bathroom, bedroom and purse:

What if you’re using your phone, connected to your company? Now Facebook has access to your private and business calls. Who is to say that your competitor couldn’t buy that data from Facebook?

The current and final straw for me, beyond marketing metrics and the broken relationship, was the propaganda affecting elections. The current bad news for Facebook is that Trump grabbed data from Facebook. But, both parties, super-pacs, lobbyists and candidates all have a part to play in the broken trust in that Facebook has allowed them to use this personal data.


My Facebook Advice for Business

Should everyone stop using Facebook for business? I’d say yes to almost every business, because I have never seen a great outcome. But, in my professional opinion, everyone needs to make sure you know what is going on, look at your data and your website traffic, and make real evaluation on time versus reach. If you are in specific fields, like event marketing, I think Facebook could still be useful to reach people, but don’t expect traffic to your site.

What about large businesses that may see customer service issues in Facebook? Well, maybe you should keep your ear on the customer service and comments in Facebook. Then again, do you hear personal conversations bad mouthing you in real life? Seems like a large effort to listen to Facebook, so you better have a good reason.

What if you are highly relationship focused, and conduct business in Facebook in a one-to-one approach? Well, stay in Facebook and be friends with your relationships. Don’t let pages get in your way – build real handshakes. Pages are like putting a wall up between you and your relationship.

And if a client or advertiser says, “I would like you to push the story through Facebook,” I will reply, “It is a waste of time for me, and a waste of money for you.”  The reason is the relationship. My friends are not your friends for a reason. Why would I pitch a friend an ad? Why would I break my friend’s trust for money?

Am I keeping my personal account? Yes, for now, but absolutely no apps. Everyone should delete their Apps NOW.

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