Should companies #DeleteFacebook?

In the wake of Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook data to influence political views our Managing Director of Content, Matthew Kershaw contributed to an IDG Connect article examining 'Should companies #DeleteFacebook?'. Check out his full response on the topic below. 

 

1. Following the Cambridge Analytica revelations and the move by high-level tech execs like Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak to delete Facebook, should other companies follow suit? 

Companies should always consider the efficacy of all the communications channels they're using, but what's happened with Cambridge Analytica and #deletefacebook isn't actually the main problem with Facebook. 

The real issue is that over time, Facebook has reduced the value of an 'organic' post to zero. In other words, an almost imperceptible number of people who 'like' your page will see anything you post unless you've paid Facebook to boost it.

On that basis, Facebook is like any other mass media channel and will be appropriate for certain tasks and inappropriate for others. The question will be around the cost and impact with which you can reach the audience you are trying to reach versus the other channels available to you.

The reality is that for millions of businesses, the size of audience and the accuracy with which you can target them makes Facebook a slam-dunk choice of channel, and I am sure it will continue to do so.

For some though, this might be a good moment to reconsider. From a business perspective, if it's not worth paying to reach an audience on Facebook, it's probably not worth being on Facebook.

 

2. What benefit is there to removing your brand from Facebook?

The PR value of deleting your Facebook channel is probably over. The early movers have moved, and the media will be less and less interested in late followers. The conversation has moved on.

But there will be other benefits.

For many companies, their presence on Facebook is not strategic, it doesn't connect to the rest of their business or brand strategy. It's desperate and the time spent on it is probably better spent elsewhere.

Wetherspoons is a good example - they had an account for every pub and the posts were of a low quality and relied on the non-existent 'organic' reach. What was it really doing for them?

I am sure Chairman Tim Martin is right when he says, "I don’t believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever". 

But you can see it done brilliantly by companies like Starbucks or electric racing brand, Formula E for whom Facebook and social in general is an opportunity to reach new audiences in a way that resonates with them and brings them closer to the brand.

 

3. And if you do, how do you start to build your brand presence in alternative spaces? Is it simply a case of replacing one social network with another (Twitter/ Instagram/ Snapchat etc)?

We don't think of each of these channels as one undifferentiated 'social'. They each have their own quirks, angles and audiences, so just substituting one for the other won't work.

Every channel should be considered as part of your wider joined-up communications

 

4. Is it a case of sticking with Facebook since many users are? 

Probably. 

The reality is 87m accounts breached is a relatively small number compared to their total 2.1bn usership – less than half of one percent. And the data actually lost is of low value. It's not my passwords, emails or bank details.

Additionally, the early indications are that the number of people quitting Facebook has already peaked. 

For reference, this is a third of the size of the backlash Snapchat saw when recently changed its interface design. 

 

5. Will this scandal spell the end for Facebook in your view? Will other social networks benefit?

Obviously, other networks will make hay while the sun shines. I am sure it's no coincidence that #deletefacbook is a hashtag, native to Twitter, where this conversation is largely happening. (Ironically, Twitter is a far worse environment than Facebook for brands -  with a multitude of issues around hate speech, bullying, fake news and identity fraud but I guess that's for another time...)

Whatever, this is not the end of Facebook, which also owns Whatsapp and Instagram. 

The more pressing concern for them will be the platform's inability to attract younger users who now see it as a channel for their parents.

This year, for the first time, less than half of US internet users ages 12 to 17 will use Facebook at least once per month.