Is it Time to Breakup With Facebook?

By: Guest | December 4, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is by Amy McCloskey Tobin.

Facebook was my first great social media love.

I resisted at first, but once I jumped in back in 2009, I was head over heels.

Other networks turned my head periodically, but Facebook claimed my time and my business heart.

I used it to build up one of my own small businesses – at one point 50 percent of our leads were coming from our own small, but highly engaged page.

I even began to do the unthinkable – I neglected my own website – sometimes for months.

But then Geoff Livingston smacked me in the face on my blog last week.  He said, “I think Facebook is toast if they don’t redirect in six months, seriously. Welcome to the big blue dwindle.”

Geoff has written about his own changed relationship with Facebook recently, and I have heard the death knell scenario foretold a zillion times by other marketers whom I respected, but this was the first time I took it seriously.

My repeated comeback in the past has always been, “The only way Facebook will die is by suicide.”

But I Thought You Loved Me?

I think the sickly mixture of Promoted and Sponsored posts may be the sound of Facebook pulling that very trigger. I know Mark Cuban is a hothead, but when he went off on his rant about having to pay to reach the followers his page had worked so hard to accumulate, I totally and wholeheartedly understood his rage.

Any business page with a decent following worked hard to grow that page and they all built it thinking they’d be able to reach that audience.  The only way they wouldn’t is if the audience found their message undesirable. With the requirement that they now pay to reach all of their own followers, Facebook pulled the rug out from under all of them.

I know, I know, Facebook does not owe us a damn thing; this post by Copyblogger makes that abundantly clear. We don’t pay a dime to use its services.

However, we in turn owe Facebook nothing either. It’s time to fall out of love with Facebook.

I Think it’s Time We See Other People

I am not advocating you leave Facebook. The one billion people in the world you might want to reach out to aren’t going anywhere suddenly. But I am advocating you do what Mark Cuban suggests, and make it a much, much less important part of your marketing arsenal.

If you’ve been building your social media strategy correctly, this won’t be quite a scary as it sounds. If, indeed, you’ve been using Facebook as a funnel, or one of the many octopus arms in your inbound marketing, you’ll be okay. That would mean your website is fresh and relevant, and contains relevant and attractive content.

All you need to do now is to start leaning on the many other funnels out there. Dust off that email marketing platform. Beef up your Twitter presence. Get Pinterest working hard.

Because Facebook isn’t the easy, free way of reaching out to your audience it once was. And I don’t see that open line of communication ever coming back.

Amy  McCloskey Tobin is the founding principal of Ariel Marketing Group, LLC. Her mission in life is to create smart, individualized marketing strategies for small business. 

  • Amy, this is a great reminder to beef up the stuff you own — your site, your blog, all the content your customers and prospects find valuable. And to spread your social engagement around to more than just Facebook. (Gosh I love Twitter!)

    • @barrettrossie Yep Barrett – I think it’s in that copyblogger post where they talk about building on someone’s else’s lot so to speak.  I am a tad bit heartbroken, because I used to love FB so much. I feel like it cheated on me…. but I still won’t sleep with G+

  • Good stuff, but I think Mark Cuban was rather wrongheaded in his approach. He doesn’t  “get it”. To him, it is merely a marketing tool. When we approach it that way, we get it wrong. I hear people bemoaning the loss of audience, but with most of my clients, I’m just not seeing that. I’m seeing good numbers. I just introduced a new client to Facebook. Or rather I reintroduced him to it. He was doing it all wrong. In just 20 minutes he was able to more than triple the traffic to his web site. His numbers are through the roof, and he is selling items that are in the 6 figure range to a very narrow audience. We need to rethink our approach. And we haven’t even really started with Twitter, Pinterest, or blogging. That’s next on the agenda.

    • @KenMueller The point of my post was that Facebook should not be relied upon as heavily as it once was.  I did not dissect Cuban’s approach for a reason – I’m not saying he did it correctly.  What I said was that I understood his anger.  The point is, you need to START relying on the other funnels a lot more.

    • @KenMueller @AmyMccTobin I want to hear some details about this client that sells the 6-figure stuff. Ken, how about a case study?

      • @barrettrossie  @AmyMccTobin Could be. It’s the most unique client I’ve ever had, with a very interesting audience. We’ve barely started working together but have a lot planned.

  • “I Think it’s Time We See Other People.” Yes, Facebook. I’m sorry. But this time, it’s NOT me — it’s you. 
    Great post, Amy. I’ve been using Facebook for our business (and other brands) for a couple of years now, and while it used to be a great place for community around our brand, over time it’s lost its appeal — at least for our audience. We still have an active presence there, and I like to try different kinds of posts and schedules to measure reach, but I far prefer Twitter for creating relationships with our target audience. 
    I’m not giving up; I think there’s still hope for Facebook. But I’ve been “seeing other people” for a while now!

  • The problem is, the 1% of people that understand this care (okay, glib number, sorry Amy, but you know what I mean!).
    The rest of the world? They don’t even know, and care even less, about what’s going on. And they’re the ones that will continue to use Facebook, let its private data sharing practices go unchallenged, and end up with ads and Sponsored Stories in front of them, an click through.
    Didn’t someone else once leave Facebook for Google+? Wonder how that’s working out for them? oh, wait, they came back… 😉

    • @Danny Brown Yep… I know Danny, but I’m talking to US, to the people who HAVE been relying on it for marketing.  I’m not saying LEAVE FB, I’m saying stop leaning on it so heavily.

      • @Danny Brown I will still be on there busting your chops, and COMMUNICATING with friends etc., but as far as using it as a small business marketing page, I’m making it much less important.

  • TorontoBruce

    @belllindsay @SpinSucks I did personally. If had to dump FB or Tw for business, I’d keep Tw and dump Fb.

    • belllindsay

      @TorontoBruce Interesting. Why? @SpinSucks

      • TorontoBruce

        @belllindsay @SpinSucks More value for effort. FB killed my love by restricting the # of ppl seeing our posts. Never more than 10% tops.

  • flemingsean

    I’ve written about this before too. In September 2011, in a post entitled “I don’t want you but I need you”:

    • @flemingsean In 2011 I was still in the throes of passion. And I’m not saying desert FB, I’m saying start dating around.

  • AllisonReeceART

    I love Twitter! But, it’s so limiting only 140 characters, so on and so on. And there are times, you just have to say more or if you don’t people are left wondering. Not everyone wants to click on a link to get the rest of the story or info. I’m not a FB fan, but it does attract a different group of people that I don’t get on Twitter, Pinterest, or even LinkedIn. Personally, my favorites are LinkedIn and Pinterest. Even so, more men use LinkedIn and more women use Pinterest. So there is a demographic issue. Really depends on your product, who you are trying to reach, service, etc.  In the world of technology, EVERYTHING IS CHANGING RAPIDLY. PERIOD!
    Allison Reece/Artist

    • @AllisonReeceART Yep Allison, everything is changing rapidly and I think it’s time to look for additional funnels to lean on.

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  • And I should have told you all that this post came about because of a conversation I had with the brilliant  @douglasrice who makes me think a lot.

  • This isn’t exactly what you are talking about, but I think the marketing side of Facebook is intimately tied to the end user experience, and frankly the things you are suggesting are probably good advice for people on Facebook whether they are using it for business purposes or not. Depending completely on it for marketing purposes is a tiny bit like being an emotional vampire/glomming on to your bestest friend until they can’t take it anymore.

    • @joecardillo LOVE the emotional vampire description.

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  • While I don’t like that FB has made it more difficult for your information to be seen in a “free” sense, I also don’t mind paying to sponsor stories or content I know my audience wants to see. I have a conservative daily ad budget that keeps our content in news feeds and watching the engagement  grow significantly per post is a huge benefit we had never seen until spending a little money. It’s been a successful tactic to extend time-decay for our content. Agreed that FB should only an arm of any overall marketing strategy. Nice reminder!

  • TedRubin

    Anyone who has any sense always recognized that Facebook, and all the other platforms, are tools and not the relationship itself. Never give up your own brand to another, and realize Facebook, or any other platform, can pull the rug from you at anytime. That said, there is a great deal of value to be had at Facebook when utilized properly, which is different for everyone. I find tremendous value in Facebook, the interactions is empowers, and the masses who are there, but now using G+ or other platforms in that way. All about how you use, your outlook, and understanding it is simply a platform and a tool.

    • @TedRubin Sadly Ted…lots of sensible small business owners built far too much on FB and didn’t pull back to their own site.  Believe me, I see it all the time. It IS a tool, not your own marketing platform.

      • @AmyMccTobin  @TedRubin Agreed, but I recall when FB started really taking off there were plenty of SM/Marketing experts who encouraged small businesses to focus the majority of their efforts there. Like Ted says it’s all about balance and really, it shouldn’t be a surprise that there are setbacks on FB as there would be on any platform.

        • @joecardillo  @TedRubin Yep…. and I bet those same people self moniker-ed themselves as Gurus and Experts.

  • bowden2bowden

    @AmyMccTobin thanks, I had already read your post and believe my friend @TedRubin share great insight! Think new horizons 🙂 @andreabritton

    • TedRubin

      .@bowden2bowden @AmyMccTobin @andreabritton Facebook is so far from over. Would not write off so soon. Smart people, long way to go.

      • AmyMccTobin

        @TedRubin @bowden2bowden @andreabritton I did NOT say it was over..I said stop relying on it as your web presence if you are a sm biz (cont)

        • TedRubin

          .@AmyMccTobin @bowden2bowden @andreabritton Absolutely. Never should have relied on it!

      • AmyMccTobin

        @TedRubin @bowden2bowden @andreabritton Of course it’s a killer communication tool, but sm. biz can’t afford to pay to reach their own fans

      • AmyMccTobin

        @TedRubin @bowden2bowden @andreabritton it’s about marketing.

  • jml_bryant

    @ginidietrich you’re welcome! I hope you’re well.

    • ginidietrich

      @jml_bryant I am. Hungry, but well

  • bowden2bowden

    @AmyMccTobin Amy, you can check my blog, I have a few post with my take, if you have interest

    • AmyMccTobin

      @bowden2bowden Absolutely will do.

  • I have to wonder why we expect an “easy, free way of reaching out to your audience” from Facebook? I find their limiting pages’ and individuals’ reach aggravating, too, but my Pollyanna side says that if most brands start paying modestly for sponsored stories on Facebook, then, presto, Facebook has MUCH more to lose by making changes that hurt those spenders. When Facebook was 100% free and easy for corporate pages, the people buying straight-up Facebook sidebar ads and otherwise paying to build an advertiser relationship with Facebook were the customer, and we (yes, even the brands) were the product. A customer has more power than a product, and perhaps in the mid to long term businesses running Facebook pages can flex their customer-muscles to shape a healthier, happier, more engaged Facebook, rather than sitting on the sidelines waiting for Facebook to package them with the other products being sold to bigger spenders.

    • @jelenawoehr Well, the small business pages have no power… they can choose to pay to reach their own following, or not.  Or, they can use other social networks to funnel people to their OWN website by enticing them with valuable content.

      • @AmyMccTobin Seems to me that even in that regard it’ll eventually shake out. Small businesses can still leave a “splash page” up on Facebook with information on how to reach them elsewhere. If promoted post pricing is prohibitive to small businesses, people looking for small businesses they want to “like” will find pages directing them elsewhere (including to the biz’s own website). Could call that Facebook committing suicide, but I would hope it’s more like Facebook getting in line for a correction to that particular strategy. They may find it’s best to prompt only the largest brands and pages to promote posts, or to create exemptions for small businesses posting to people in their local area. Besides greed, the driver behind this change is obviously users’ reluctance to have a feed full of brands’ posts, even if they want to support lots of brands with a “like,” and I think most individual users would prefer to see more local small businesses in their feed, not more Coca Cola and Hone Depot.

  • Facebook doesn’t owe us thing? I don’t know. I think there’s a value associated with our personal data; and I think there’s an expectation that an exchange of services for that access is part of that relationship.  Once the terms of that value exchange are changed then the access and amount of detail we share with Facebook of our personal or professional data should perhaps change.

    • @rideboulderco But they really don’t owe us a thing, because we freely gave them that data with no contract, and no expectation. We use their network for FREE.

      • @AmyMccTobin You’re right, we do. However, they  use and share our data for free. I think what might work one day is for us, as individuals, to have access to our personal online data that  has an assigned valued and then when we elect to  share – there’s an exchange of services commiserate with  the value of the social data.  I get to view these feeds without ads because I shared my email/twtitter handle, etc.

  • AmyMccTobin

    @nigelcameron @ginidietrich Why thank you Nigel… it really is my first great media love gone bad.

    • nigelcameron

      @AmyMccTobin @ginidietrich Fb was once a great idea!

      • AmyMccTobin

        @nigelcameron @ginidietrich It STILL is, for communication. but not AS your Marketing cornerstone. I’m saying: date around.

        • nigelcameron

          @AmyMccTobin it will peak soon. Zuck is nuts to expect billions more to join.

        • AmyMccTobin

          @nigelcameron And when they stop spending $$, then what? Just a free communications tool? What do investors expect?

        • AnastasiaAshman

          @AmyMccTobin @nigelcameron @ginidietrich I enjoyed your take! have never been smitten by FB but increasingly cooling as well…

        • AmyMccTobin

          @AnastasiaAshman @nigelcameron @ginidietrich I still love it to chat w/my friends, & I’m not telling clients to leave, but to lean elsewhere

  • sohinibaliga

    @ginidietrich @AmyMccTobin Completely on point. Am currently setting up an fb pg for a friend, but it’s a “cover your bases” kind of thing.

    • AmyMccTobin

      @sohinibaliga Exactly… the same reason I continue to set up G+ pages in that desert.

      • sohinibaliga

        @AmyMccTobin Ah yes the G+ desert. Not much of a party there …..

  • TedRubin

    @domainadvisor @bowden2bowden @AmyMccTobin @andreabritton Yes!

    • AmyMccTobin

      @TedRubin @domainadvisor @bowden2bowden @andreabritton Of course, but how will they earn revenue? THE reason they’re in biz. Driving biz out

      • TedRubin

        @AmyMccTobin @domainadvisor @bowden2bowden @andreabritton Very simple… start charging Brands for like, data, services.

        • bowden2bowden

          @TedRubin @amymcctobin @domainadvisor @andreabritton Sounds like a solid plan to me 🙂

        • AmyMccTobin

          @TedRubin @domainadvisor @bowden2bowden @andreabritton harging for data that is valuable is a no brainer…. cont…

        • AmyMccTobin

          @TedRubin @domainadvisor @bowden2bowden @andreabritton Charging to reach the audience you spent $$ building = dumb.

        • bowden2bowden

          @AmyMccTobin @tedrubin @domainadvisor @andreabritton but you have to give FB credit for driving that audience and providing the platform

        • AmyMccTobin

          @bowden2bowden @TedRubin @domainadvisor @andreabritton Of COURSE.. remember, I was in LOVE. But I think they’re making a huge mistake here

  • ChristineHowse

    From those of us who use Facebook to link up with family in far away places, to reconnect with school friends, to make new friends to see photographs of friends new babies, their weddings etc I find business pages and advertisements an irritation of the highest degree and an invasion of my timeline. My two cents worth please Facebook go back to the days where we were a community and not a platform where advertisers invaded our privacy.

    • @ChristineHowse Sadly, it’s about revenue Christine.  Do posts from pages you Liked annoy you.  You have hit on EXACTLY what my point is, if I didn’t express it clearly: by allowing sponsored & promoted posts to clutter up a news feed, you are annoying the ‘customer’ by interrupting them.   By forcing the Sm Biz Page to PAY to reach their own followers completely, you are annoying THEM.  People start looking around for other channels, and they might just find one.

  • SharonBautista

    I’m a singer/songwriter/musician and I had a GREAT following on myspace.  I have to say that facebook is just not the same as far as music goes.  I realize I am in the minority here as everyone else is speaking of business outside of entertainment.  I was able to reach sooo many more people on myspace until IT changed too.  These forums make their money and then self destruct.  Sadly.
    Please don’t laugh at me for mentioning myspace.  It WAS once a tremendous music platform. (-;

    • @SharonBautista Hey there Sharon… from what I hear it may be again.  And your point is totally valid: that these channels that we DO NOT own and DO NOT control can evaporate before our eyes. Use them effectively to draw people to your hub – your website, or to build your brand. But the social space changes rapidly: all of us must be adaptive and ready to evolve with it.

    • flemingsean

      @SharonBautista Sharon, I’m also a singer/songwriter/musician.  But because I work in PR & digital communications, I’ve been watching the MySpace resurrection rumours for a while, with mounting interest.  
      I have a feeling that if/when the ‘new’ MySpace gets its act together there could well be a surge in interest in it.  I think a combination of nostalgia (a bit like the sentiments you’ve expressed) and a desire from many people for an alternative to Facebook (burn all the people who say Google+ is a Facebook alternative, it isn’t).
      I’m not the only person expressing this view – about MySpace making a genuine comeback.  No, it’s not obvious, it might not even be likely.  But there are a lot of indicators there that it might be on the cards.
      IF MySpace gets itself together.  🙂

  • AmyMccTobin

    @TedCurtin @knealemann Ha! It IS. People are reading into it that I said LEAVE. Nope. I said rely on other mktg channels more.

  • geoffliving

    @christuttle LOL, I’m totally unfaithful to the Big Blue Dwindle these days.

  • Do you know the sad thing @AmyMccTobin , Some brads are still buying into success = the number of likes. They somehow think that seeing a physical number negates the “number of users” who actually engage with the brand posts, let alone SEE them. If Mark Zuckerberg mandated brands to use timeline and sponsored stories as a way to add value to users, it hasn’t worked. Brands are more frustrated because they HAVE to buy ads to drive their own fans to their pages. I personally have never really bought into their ad model because it was counterintuitive to the platform’s purpose. Someone should actually measure the value of an organic LIKE vs. Paid Like IMHO.

    • @hessiej And obviously the ‘organic’ likes were what brands aimed for initially… which is why Cuban blew his top.  Now, the first post I see is usually sponsored  spam…. and I think this has the danger to destroy Facebook’s charm.  Add that to the brands who are angry at the shift in access to your own fans, and you have a real opportunity for another platform to sneak in.

  • EvilPRGuy

    @jeffespo @ginidietrich I broke up with Facebook a long time ago and nuked my account. You have to be a little dumb to have one. #privacy

    • jeffespo

      @EvilPRGuy @ginidietrich are you calling me dumb? I thought you established that years ago

      • EvilPRGuy

        @jeffespo @ginidietrich Fess up. You just play dumb on Facebook.

    • ginidietrich

      @EvilPRGuy Oh @jeffespo is dumb. No question about it.

      • jeffespo

        @ginidietrich @EvilPRGuy I will cut both of you… bought me the Rambo knife this weekend in Jersey…

        • ginidietrich

          @jeffespo Scaaaary @EvilPRGuy

  • CraigMcBreen

    @mistya0730 I’ve still having a love affair with Twitter 😉 @ginidietrich

    • ginidietrich

      @CraigMcBreen Twitter rules

  • HowieG

    I am always the person who does things first. I said short the IPO over a year before they went public….so of course
    But then @ginidietrich @Danny Brown sucked me back in so now I spend on average 6 minutes a day. They blew their chance in 2009. I blogged about the broken business model. I suggested they charge $3 a month for a killer comm service for people. Combined on a smart phone they could of delivered what nextel tried pre-smart phones. And since we pay $100 for cell/data service if they got just 200m of the 400m to sign up they would have $7.2 billion in revenues and they could shut out all advertising and even brands and reinvest in the user experience. They are now old technology and dying fast. benkunz wrote a blog post about maybe a year ago regarding how all networks die.
    Seriously if Friendster and Myspace can be left so can Facebook. Maybe they will die before something takes its place if the value for using it goes negative like what happened at Myspace (spam, long page loads, crashing etc)

  • Thank you for this!!! I left my personal FB account for ages, and have been sucked right back in socially, yet I still question its business value.

  • howiegoldfarb

    @thejoshuawilner lol they have a lot of young talent so maybe they can compete i to august

  • Facebook and I have been going through a nasty divorce for the past three years. I’m only still on there out of “obligation and devotion.” 
    Business wise, I think it’s foolish to not spread your business across multiple platforms. Great article, I agree.

    • @stevenmcoyle I still spend hours on FB everyday… and I still use it for Biz, but I am certainly shifting that focus to other platforms.  All divorces are filled with regret though.

  • AmyMccTobin

    @Lucido 🙂 I think lust is gone too.

  • AmyMccTobin

    @howiegoldfarb @SpinSucks @ginidietrich Nuclear? Maybe I just started drawing up the battle plans.

  • Whew .. I thought I was the only one backing away from FB. I’m almost never on for personal reasons and just get in/get out for my clients and my fan pages. Once I found how easy and simple it is to use Pinterest (and how pinning can help businesses!), I never looked back.
    Makes me wonder what’s going to happen with FB down the road when more people start to feel the way you described in your post.

    • @penneyfox Pinterest is one of the big draws away. I actually think niche networks have a real opportunity. I’ve been watching Senatus (luxury community) for a few years. Most people haven’t heard of it – it caters to the very wealthy, but it has been thriving.

  • JodiEchakowitz

    Good food for thought, Amy. The one thing I wonder about Facebook – particular if it does take a nosedive as many of us are thinking – is what will happen to the communities (Facebook groups) that have developed and have become a go to resource for people so many.
    For example, I am the moderator/community manager for a Facebook page for a not-for-profit organization (the page is used solely to share information, articles, facts, etc.). I am also the moderator/community manager for this not-for-profit’s Facebook group which has over 1,000 members. The members of this group actively use it to get support from others who are facing similar issues, asked the community for advice/feedback, and sometimes to just get moral support when they are dealing with a positive or negative issue. Given that Facebook groups evolved quite some time ago, what are your thoughts on their role when examining the future of Facebook?

    • JodiEchakowitz

      Haha! I think the water got to me… just re-read this part of my comment: “for people so many.” Seems my language skills disappear after 5:30pm!

    • @JodiEchakowitz I don’t think it will disappear Jodi – heck, even MySpace is still around and ‘reinventing.’  As far as groups and using it as a communication tool – why stop?  But for brands that have been relying heavily on it to reach their followers… I see a big pull back coming.  Eventually, if you do decide to rebuild on another platform, you’ll have time to invite your group over there…

  • AmyMccTobin

    @douglaserice And I only mentioned you in the comment section Dougie – shame on me.

  • AmyMccTobin

    @MargieClayman @amberrisme @shonali Morning folks, and thx as always for sharin’

    • shonali

      @amymcctobin @MargieClayman You’re welcome! @amberrisme

  • LydiaMarketing

    Interesting, food for thought…RT @jeanniecw Is it Time to Breakup With Facebook? via @ginidietrich #smallbiz #sm

  • HefferonJoe

    @sacevero @SpinSucks Yes!! and thanks Stacey

  • WFHConcepts

    Just like pennyfox…whew! I thought I was the only one who had reservations about Facebook. Yes, I admit I do have a Facebook page for my website, I’d be foolish not to include this in my social media marketing plan but it’s not my main tunnel of sharing content and most of my time is on my website keeping my content fresh. In a way, your post helped me realized I’m taking the right approach. : ) 
    Nothing against Facebook, it’s a great social media venue but I had trouble buying into it at first. I don’t even have a personal page, never have but I know what it can do for a small business. I enjoyed your post and looking forward to reading more! Have a great day.

  • LouHoffman

    So hard to do RT @Steveology: Is it Time to Breakup With Facebook? via @ginidietrich

  • AmyMccTobin

    @jessicasmiller @iContact @SpinSucks wow. I’ll have to check mine.

  • Rebecca Carter

    In case it hasn’t been mentioned yet – no time to read through 96 comments! – I would highly recommend starting to use Google+ to reach out to potential customers as well. Don’t bombard G-plussers with advertising in your posts, just become a presence on that network so you’re seen and known.
    Out of love with Facebook and in love with Google+ 😉

    • @Rebecca Carter Hi there… sadly, G+ is the boyfriend I’m just not attracted to.  My clients aren’t there… and their customers certainly aren’t.  So they can market to the hardcore G+ users, but it’s still a desert.  Of course I make sure G+ is a part of their strategy, but I don’t trust Google’s numbers on activity in their because they’re tricky.I’m spending more of their time on Pinterest, Twitter, and niche networks, and waiting patiently for the  new MySpace to get out of beta to see what’s up with that.

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