Is it time to quit Facebook?
Not you, personally. Feel free to like, post, and poke away.
I’m asking if your business should give up Facebook.
Recently, several high-profile businesses have shuttered their Facebook pages. While I’m not yet ready to call it a trend, these cases have caught my attention. Why? Because the reasons these companies give for leaving the social platform do not bode well for Facebook’s business prospects.
But, before getting into the big question – should you quit Facebook – let’s take a look at why some brands pulled the plug.
Eat24 Pens a Heckuva Breakup Letter
Eat24 is a business that built quite a following on Facebook – amassing 70000 likes by doing what everyone says to do on Facebook: make interesting content. The content was high quality, funny, and shareable. It was able to reflect both the views of the audience and show off Eat24’s personality.
To put it plainly, Eat24 had found success on Facebook by following the rules.
And then those rules changed. The flood of content in Facebook, both from brands and users, was overwhelming. Facebook’s algorithm, EdgeRank, had to make sense out of all of it. And as one Facebook employee pointed out to Eat24, a user uploading baby photos outranks a brand’s sushi jokes.
The only way to truly beat the algorithm and reach everyone who liked the Eat24 page was to pay.
And that changed the math. See, constantly creating engaging content, the kind required to outperform baby photos, is a time consuming prospect. Eat24 felt they had done what was asked of them to assemble those 70,000 fans. With Facebook suddenly slapping a paywall between fans and the content Eat24 was creating for them – well, that hurt. First, it was changing the rules. Second, it was removing the usefulness. Winning at Facebook was already a slim victory, but paying to do so turned Facebook into a bad investment – one that was not worth either the time or the money.
So, true to character, Eat24 penned an epic breakup letter . They let Facebook know why they were leaving in a creative fashion, and as promised, deleted their Facebook page.
For Eat24, paying to reach a hard gained audience was too much. For them, it was time to quit Facebook.
Copyblogger – Death by Junk Likes
Copyblogger started their blog during the crash of the First Wave of Bloggers, way back in 2006. This was years before the term “content marketing” became a thing.
As Copyblogger morphed from a blog into a media company, they saw numerous social networks born, flair, and fail. And during that, Copyblogger assembled quite the first hand knowledge of how to succeed on social.
So it came as quite a shock when Copyblogger announced their intention to delete their Facebook page. And unlike the month warning Eat24 gave, Copyblogger deleted theirs that very day .
So what happened?
The short story is, while Copyblogger had found success on Twitter and Google+, Facebook never quite worked for them.
The longer story is, they were victims of the same algorithm as Eat24. But unlike Eat24, they never tasted success. Copyblogger’s collection of “Likes,” the means of measuring success on Facebook, were the very thing preventing Copyblogger from making the channel useful.
The way the EdgeRank system works is that when a page shares content, that content is tested against a small, representative sample of users. If that sample reacts positively, the content is shared to a wider group.
But Copyblogger had amassed a bunch of “junk” likes – people who were likely being paid to buy links elsewhere and used Copyblogger to hide those fraudulent purchases. These people clearly had no interest in engaging with Facebook’s content. This lack of interaction meant that Facebook could never quite get the momentum necessary to be seen on Facebook.
Cleaning up the page, pulling out all the junk likes and reducing Copyblogger’s like population to only those interested was a lot of work. And ultimately, the odds of success just weren’t there.
So, without a means to overcome EdgeRank and get a solid initial publishing base, it was time for Copyblogger to delete their Facebook page.
Groove – The Return That Never Was
Both Eat24 and Copyblogger did what you’re “supposed to do” on Facebook, and the result was likes in the five-figure range. Groove, a startup launched in the fall of 2013, wasn’t so lucky.
Despite creating solid content and using Facebook as much as any other promotional channel, the service never clicked with Groove.
In fact, by the time Groove began to question Facebook’s efficacy, they had 2000 paying clients and 20,000 blog subscribers, but just under 200 Likes. In founder Alex Turnball’s own words, the results were “embarrassing.”
The root cause of failure was hard to pinpoint. Maybe Groove was just too late into an admitted early-mover game . Maybe the Facebook algorithm was biased against pages with such a small population of users. Or maybe Groove’s customers just weren’t interested in Facebook.
Whatever the cause, Groove crunched the numbers and saw that Facebook was a losing proposition. The time spent on the channel had failed to produce leads, let alone revenue. Meanwhile, Groove’s blogging efforts were already paying for themselves.
So, Groove made the decision to stop listening to accepted wisdom, and only engage with channels that were posting positive returns. Bye bye Facebook .
Is It Your Time To Quit Facebook?
Leaving a channel is a tough decision. You’re when faced with pulling the plug, all that time and energy that’s been invested can feel like a loss. What’s worse, most businesses’ decision isn’t as cut-and-dried as the cases above. Most of us drive on, certain that Facebook success is “just around the corner.”
But those are emotional reactions to what should be a rational decision – is spending time on Facebook generating a measurable return for your business?
To make that decision a little easier, here is a series of five tests. If you answer “no” to any of these tests, it’s a strong sign that it might be time to ditch Facebook and experiment with a new channel.
1. What customers do you want to reach?
Facebook’s tantalizingly large user base is both a blessing and a curse. Just as “everyone” is not a target market, neither is “Everyone on Facebook.” Staying broad means that nobody will be truly pleased. So, just as with any other business decision, the first step in determining if you should quit Facebook is to understand what customers you want to reach and whether they are Facebook users.
If your target customers are not on Facebook, then delete your page.
2. Are your customers currently using Facebook in a business-friendly capacity?
If your target customers are using Facebook, the next question comes down to how these customers use Facebook. If you’re in a B2B market, there’s a strong chance that your customers are using Facebook as a personal social network and are not interested in hearing your sales pitch. Even if you’re a B2C business, your customers might not want to broadcast the affiliation, or hear from you in this channel.
If your customers are using Facebook, but not in a way that’s conducive to achieving your business goals, then delete your Facebook page.
3. What’s the competition doing?
Having passed the first two checks, that your target customers are on Facebook and do want to engaged with you on the network, the next step is to cheat. Just a little. Check out your competition and see how they’re using Facebook. Are they finding success? Are they creating content? Are they using Facebook to crowdsource ideas? What about customer service?
If your competition is using Facebook, but not finding success, then it might be time to delete your Facebook page.
4. What engagement mechanism is right for you?
If your competition appears to be finding success on Facebook, then it’s time to get tactical. The value of any channel is tied to how well you can use that channel to achieve a business goal. So, looking at the business goal you want to associate with Facebook – drive leads, increase customer satisfaction, spread brand awareness – pick the Facebook engagement mechanism that helps promote that.
Facebook has three primary means for users to engage with content – the Like, the Share, and the Comment. Despite its name, the Like is the most passive means of interaction. This act is less an admission of engagement and more a casual nod in the direction of a brand or piece of content.
The Share, on the other hand, is a statement of passion, either agreement or disagreement, that moves a person to republish a piece of content with their friends. Thankfully, Facebook allows for commenting within the share, so you can judge the sentiment that drove the share. But this is definitely a stronger interaction than a Like.
The final interactive mechanism is the Comment. This interaction is roughly on par with the Share in terms of emotional impact, but instead of directing that emotion outwards towards new potential customers, this energy is directed towards a brand. This makes the comment great for increasing the strength of relationships and actual Customer Engagement.
If none of these mechanism can help you achieve your business goals, then you might want to delete your Facebook page.
5. Does Facebook “net” for you?
The first four tests were about potential alignment. They asked if Facebook could be a channel that has a positive impact on your business goals. This final tests gets rid of the “could” and does the math. Here, it’s time to look at your history with Facebook. Step aside from vanity metrics (looking at you Page Likes), and focus on the actual benefit your business has derived from Facebook.
If Facebook is not yielding a positive result towards a real business goal, then it might be time to delete your Facebook page.
Pot and Kettle?
What about us? The Recurve Facebook page is kind of a ghost town. We rarely produce original content for it, largely because of Test #2 – our target customers are not using Facebook for business.
So, why haven’t we deleted it? Well, because deleting a channel is difficult. But as we stopped tracking Facebook data months ago, nixing the channel is certainly on the docket for our end-of-year review.
After all, the evidence is piling up that Facebook is not going to get any easier for businesses. And if it does, well, you can always make new page.