Is your company still friends with Facebook? It could be time to ditch the social media giant.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have heard about the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Before this embarrassing blunder, when we thought of Facebook we thought of memes, holiday snaps and new parents documenting every second of their child’s day (please stop). But then, as Facebook puts it, “something happened”. Millions of users’ data was stolen. The illusion was shattered, and we were reminded of the real purpose of Facebook.
The reactionary campaign; “here together” is undoubtedly a very good advert. It reminds people why they signed up to the platform, whilst avoiding taking any responsibility (after all, something just happened). However for those who were affected by the scandal, the damage was already done.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal drew our attention to the fact that platform’s true purpose is to extract as much data as possible from each user. In fact, 87 million users have had their data stolen. Thousands of users who have been involved in this data breach have since deleted their profiles. However, this is just the latest in a long list of faux pas committed by the social media giant.
Another major issue with Facebook is the infiltration of Fake News. Fake news pages range between infantile hoaxes and click bait all the way up to more serious attempts to sway public opinion. The issue is that fake articles can easily be disguised as serious reporting from mainstream media. The Pew Research Center found that 67 per cent of Americans use Facebook as their source of news, so this is a real problem with substantial consequences.
Facebook has received a lot of negative backlash for their failure to deal with this issue, especially after details emerged that Russian interference and creation of Fake News on Facebook had effected both elections in the US and the UK’s referendum. Facebook’s response? Make a poster stating “Fake News Is Not Our Friend”. Their attempt to tackle fake news is as feeble as the tagline. Instead of attempting to completely wipe out fake news, Facebook has committed to move it further down our timelines. It’s all very reassuring.
Facebook has had a number of blunders that have had little impact on the amount of users they have. But Cambridge Analytica was different. A report shows that after light was brought to the situation one in 20 people in Britain deleted their account. However, it seems that users were engaging less with the platform before the news broke. Perhaps this is because of Facebook’s failure to keep up with the demands of its users, something which its competitors such as Snapchat and Instagram are taking advantage of.
Whilst Facebook is still the top dog in the social media world, it is the demographics of the user base which is shifting. For teens, Facebook is only the fourth most popular app, falling far behind Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat. Research consistently shows that younger audiences are in favour of dark social apps- so called because they allow the user more privacy by deleting the content as soon as it has been seen. Could Facebook fade into obsoletion as it fails to grab the attention of the next generation?
Although people are quitting Facebook, it is easy to argue that the numbers are not high enough to mean abandoning the platform completely. However, the sheer amount of advertisements users are exposed to mean that most of the time they get ignored. Everyday, consumers can be exposed to anywhere between 4000 and 10,000 digital adverts a day, but only notice around 4 per cent. With users inundated with advertisements on Facebook, a lot of this is just becoming white noise.
Another reason why Facebook ads are not working is that certain demographics such as millennials and gen z have become disillusioned with adverts altogether, and are more likely to be encouraged to buy something by peers, influencers and high profile media personnel than they are by advertisements. Millennials are tuning out these adverts because they don’t have any credibility, and instead are looking for more trustworthy sources.
This is another reason why Facebook is falling behind its competitors; Instagram can be used as a marketing platform more easily because it facilitates the use of original content and Twitter allows consumers to interact directly with brands. Organic content created by users is far more valuable than a paid adverts. It is for this reason that Facebook’s latest algorithm changes have had such a damning effect on marketers.
In March, Facebook altered it’s news feed algorithm so that messages from the users’ friends and families will take priority in the feed over content from businesses. This has had a huge impact on organic reach, and many businesses have had to begin allocating more money in their budgets for paid ads on Facebook. Facebook has a lot of control over your business page, they have the right to change the way your content is viewed whenever and however they like. Maintaining a successful page on Facebook takes time and effort, for some companies it has taken years to build up a successful following and been destroyed in seconds by the latest algorithm changes. If business now have to pay for engagement that they used to get for free, isn’t it time to move on from Facebook as a marketing platform?
So, it seems that at least with the younger generations, Facebook is cancelled. But is it time to abandon Facebook completely? Perhaps not. If you are looking at your current digital marketing strategy and wondering whether it is still worth using Facebook, there are many factors to consider.
Firstly, what is your user base? If they are over 30, then having a Facebook page that you keep updated regularly could still be beneficial, despite the algorithm changes- if you are still getting engagement its worth investing. However if you cater to a younger demographic it may be worth considering spending more time on Instagram content or messenger marketing. Moreover, you need to analyse the cost versus the benefits. How much time are you spending on you Facebook content? Is it worth the amount of organic reach you are creating?
As one of the 87 million who has had their data breached, I can testify that it hasn’t actually affected the amount of time I spend on the application. But for me, and for many others, it has diminished Facebook’s credibility. Fake news, data scandals and the influx of adverts have added up to myself and millions of others being dubious about almost every piece of content the app presents us. Although it might be too early to completely dissolve your company’s presence on Facebook, it may be worth considering making a transition to platforms that seem to be growing in popularity, and allocating less budget toward paid ads on Facebook.
A lot of evidence suggests that Facebook is not the future, but it is the present. It might not be time to unfriend Facebook just yet.