Exiting Facebook as a Marketing Vehicle

Image by pshab

For a few months now, I have been reducing my marketing presence on Facebook.

Generally, I don’t enjoy the conversational tone, and I believe Facebook is losing market power.

Another aspect is to create a safer place where I don’t have workplace colleagues and contacts reading my feed expecting the latest and greatest Geoff news (Woo. Hoo.). I’d rather have a closer family and friend experience there.

This seems to have happened by happenstance, anyway. In fact, of my current consulting and speaking clients, only one head of marketing is a friend on Facebook.

The linchpin was seeing organic unpaid engagement drop on blog posts.

When Facebook drives traffic here, it’s because you decide to share it, not me.

That’s a good thing.

From a social media perspective, you want community carrying the message, not the content creator or in the case of a company, the brand.

Approach Towards Existing and New Friends

facebook privacy
Image by Sean MacEntee

In the past, I’ve seen people address personal media evolutions in several ways.

The first and most dramatic method is to publicly kill their Facebook (LinkedIn, Google+, etc.) account, and then start anew or simply depart. Talk about a traffic driver!

And 90% of the time, these people seem to come back. Doh!

The other way is to severely pare back their network.

I thought about this, but decided not to do it. People get really upset when you unfriend them, particularly if they feel strongly about you as a friend or contact.

Instead, I’ll spend some time this holiday season, and build a few lists for family and close friends. This seems to be the middle-of-the-road solution that will cause the least pain.

Finally, while grandfathering my existing friends, I will not accept new friend requests unless I really know you! As in I have met you real life!

There remains a marketing contingent on Facebook. For these, folks the Geoff Livingston Anti-Fan page will have to serve the purpose.

I’ll still do some updates to all friends or publicly. For example, you can continue expecting a Soleil pic of the week.

So that’s it, my big Facebook evolution for 2013.

How is your business/personal use of Facebook evolving?


  • Great post, Geoff. I have received both accolades and flack for calling Facebook “glorified” email, but there you go, that’s how I see it. My informal surveys have shown that most people go there to catch up with family and friends. I agree completely about those that say they are departing and always come back- saying you are quitting Facebook is the new running away from home ploy- all for the attention.

    • You’re VIP, baby!

    • I totally agree. “Closing my Facebook account” or mass unfriending is a call for attention.

      And you are right, people want friends and family updates, not the latest and greatest from social media experts!

  • I’ve been struggling with this too Geoff. My FB “friends” swelled to the point that I was following acquaintances (and their content) and found I was missing updates from friends/family that really mattered to me. Instead of unfriending them, I’ve just removed their updates from my newsfeed. I’ll be interested to hear how your experiment goes and what you opt to do. It’s an interesting dilemma.

    • Well, the experiment has been on since August. I felt comfortable enough with the results, to be open about it as a permanent change. Generally, I find Facebook to be not the funnest of the socnets… For me, that is. Others are more entertaining. Maybe the next UI will change that.

  • I can see that @Geoff and could see you pulling back in streams to being more daughter and fun updates as opposed to opining on business related issues.

    With all of the changes, do you see another network becoming your promotional hub, or are you reserving that for businesses that you work with in their feeds?

    • Actually, I am seeing dramatic pick ups in traffic elsewhere as I invest there, namely LinkedIn, Triberr and a huge pick up on Twitter. Blog traffic has literally doubled. I am also enjoying Facebook more when I decide to show up.

  • Facebook is 100% about friends, family, and the photos between them. Nothing more. I’ve long held the belief started by others that FB is more of a social identity site than a social networking site; you like a brand page because you identity with its products and you send a friend request because you identify with the person.

    I look at the number of my FB friends and the number of FB pages I like — and I can count on 2-3 hands the number of people/pages I interact with on a weekly basis. Everyone else I might skim but don’t read and surely don’t like/comment/share — so EdgeRank assumes I don’t care and won’t show it to me.

    I’ve been curating friend lists and interest lists and use those far more frequently than the news stream. I am also joining more and more FB groups based around my interests.

    • I really think EdgeRank and Timeline have sabotaged the Facebook experience. It’s just not been the same, and as a result, the experience has dramatically declined, in my opinion. The conversation often devolves to a high school level, the photos are nice, and the rest is hit or miss. Great to see family updates.

  • I completely agree. I’ve never seen my FB profile as a networking tool really. I use it for friends and family and the public sees hardly any of it. I have a few friends I’ve met recently (online) that I interact with regularly and allow them the VIP access pass that is my FB profile. Other than that, like my brand page, read my blog, follow me on Twitter, connect with me on Linkedin … I feel I’ve provided ample options to see what’s “trending” in my world. So, play along with me outside of my FB profile and who knows, maybe the friendship blossoms into being rewarded with that VIP pass.

  • I’m very picky about who I’ll accept as a friend on Facebook. I want to be friends with people I know or who at least explain why they want to be friends – it’s not that different from how I run my LinkedIn profile.

    I do have my business page, but I view it more as a community tool than a marketing one. I suppose the two elements overlap, but I focus more on giving my fans a reason to like the page and to stay engaged with it. It’s also a way for me to share my treasure finds, so there’s that self-centered reason.

    • I think the business pages have really dropped in effectiveness over the past few months. Have to pay to play now, I suppose. Yay, public Facebook!

      Your discernment in friends is what make Path enjoyable for me. It’s a much better experience for me because of that reason specifically.

      • I’ve not tried Path. Is it worth putting some time into?

        • I think so, especially if you value tight knit updates without worrying about them going full on public.

      • I would certainly agree. The business pages have been so ‘limited’ by Facebook, unless one is willing to ‘pony’ up $$ for promo and then one isn’t quite sure the investment is worth much ‘punch’.

    • That is how I view my page, too. I think, “What would I like to see?”

  • I don’t understand this perspective at all and I think your approach is sloppy at best. If you’re talking about a personal Facebook profile you’ve been using for business (or “marketing”), well, there’s part of your problem. Personally, I adore my community on Facebook and it’s been a long haul to build it and of course, great effort to maintain it, but it’s a gem for my brand, my business, and my community itself. My brand presence and my personal profile are separate — and never shall they meet.

    But here’s the rub: everyone uses Facebook as they will and there will always be someone shouting from his or her respective rooftop: “Facebook is dead! I’m leaving!” [insert random hand gesture here]. But if you’re going to posit that you’re exiting a social network (or shifting strategy) partially because you don’t enjoy it’s conversational tone, I’ll throw out that you probably don’t get Facebook. Because it’s *for* conversations. At least, that’s what millions of people and brands use it for every day…and quite successfully. *redhead raises her hand*

    Facebook has, inarguably, redefined the word “friend.” It’s not a position that can be earned with the click of a button. If you don’t like your friends on Facebook, re-evaluate *your* definition of friend. And perhaps the other problem is that you’re trying to market to your friends. No wonder they’re not organically sharing your stuff. That’s not a Facebook problem or a paid versus organic problem. It’s a *you* problem. My friends are the best front-stabbers in the world. Maybe it’s time to ask them why they don’t care about your stuff anymore.

    Perhaps be less quick to place the blame on Facebook as a platform. Looking into your own activities and your goals, in my experience, is a great place to start figuring our where the real problems are — platform be damned.

  • I love Facebook for its ability to connect me to friends I’d long since lost touch with. I post sorta work-related stuff, I suppose, but it’s stuff that interests me and many of my friends are in social media-related fields anyhow, as that’s how my life has evolved. But I’ll tell you, the posts that get the most interaction are those about my younger son, and I limit visibility to friends only (all other posts are public, as is my profile).

    • It’s always that way with me, too. When I post personal stuff, lots of engagement, business stuff usually sees a dramatic plummet in engagement, and I’ve noticed Facebook stopped sourcing photos from my blog, too, at least when I post from it. That makes it worse.

      So, invest in areas where it works, and cut the ones that don’t. Isn’t that what measurement teaches us to do? Great to see you, Amy.

  • As a marketer/PR/Social Media guy, I can’t fathom publicly giving up on a platform for marketing, as clients rely on me to know at least something about how to be a (good, responsible community member) marketer there. It would make little sense for any communications professional to throw the current biggest platform overboard like that (of course that’s different than being cynical, skeptical or questioning).

    I also find it harder to separate the professional and personal personae, which may be a personal choice, but on Facebook there are too many professional connections for me to cut the cord like that. I also know there are tools to compartmentalize such discussion (like Facebook Groups, for instance, and there are a few very good professionally-oriented ones I frequent). I also believe they complement each other well and playing both games together often leads to wins in both. People tend to either understand what mode I am in and can filter, or just know they aren’t going to understand what I’m talking about sometimes- something that is less true everyday.

    I am intrigued by the marketing traction on other channels, and would prefer to hear more elaboration on that. Meanwhile, here is a link to the latest photo of my cat, Whoopie Pie http://www.flickr.com/photos/doughaslam/8174273513/in/photostream

    • Well, I still use Facebook for my clients a la their pages, and recommend ad buys and strategies. I’m just not marketing my blog or business there actively anymore. It’s actually been really nice and refreshing to extract the personal me from the business presence.

      Nice cat!

      • This reminds me of a Facebook post shared by Tamar Weinberg earlier this year about deleting her page and enabling people to subscribe to her public profile updates instead. It hit home for me as a solopreneur as the brand page (for me) never made sense. For a larger company, sure; but for people who are their own businesses, why decrease your productivity when you can curate friend lists and share business/marketing stuff to the public?

        Source: https://www.facebook.com/tamarweinberg/posts/10100401774048382

        • Yeah, I think the B2B equation fits in here, too. I’m not marketing to consumers, rather businesses, so…

    • Doug – I understand the marketing implications that Facebook may provide. I also understand that some folks are “on” 24 hours a day. That is they are always in their professional mindset.

      I used to think that way and I have friends who still do. The burnout I experienced helped me understand that life is not always about business opportunities. These days, I may make a little less money, but also know what the roses smell like.


  • For pretty much the same reasons – I’ve started creating lists of people I want to follow and who might possibly be interested in pictures of my kids. It’s easier than a mass de-friending.

    As far as Facebook’s future – I have three kids in the immediate pre-Facebook years (10, 10 and almost 13) and they’ve never so much as asked about when they could have Facebook accounts. It’s just not cool to be on the same platform your Grandmother is.

    • I hear you, and I hate hearing about my updates from my grandmother on Sunday. The kid thing changes a lot of things about Facebook. It really makes you rethink the way you interact on that medium, not just for you, but for them.

  • Facebook is nothing more than a social media platform that at the moment, isn’t returning stellar results in the marketing department. I am using it less and less because my clients are elsewhere.

  • If you really feel strongly about where you deliver content and how you do it, why the “middle of the road response”? It’s just a ball buster of a decision.

    Why not just be “friends” with the people you truly consider friends and let the rest of people on Facebook sign up for your feed. Should be simple to do.The option of grandfathering friends just seems odd.

    This isn’t really a discussion about Facebook. It’s a discussion about your message. If you don’t like the tone online, change it. If you don’t think you are getting enough marketing power behind your content, change the message.

    What am I missing?

    • Yeah, not sure I agree with making definitive statements like that. Even two years ago, I might have done this, but I feel less disruption is the easier softer way today.
      I accepted these friends and did so intentionally to develop an informal following. The medium has weakened to the point where it’s not worth that investment anymore. I’m not going to throw people under the bus because I changed strategies.

  • Geoff,
    Lucky for me early on I made the decision to make FB personal and to keep acquaintances on Twitter until they “level up” and we actually know each other.
    I think the game changer, is the recent changes posited by Richard Metzer on the Dangerous Minds blog (http://dangerousminds.net/comments/facebook_i_want_my_friends_back). I no longer view Facebook as a way to connect with my real-life friends – their updates are getting “Edgeranked away”. IMHO the platform is being weakened by Facebooks need to deliver returns to investors. I don’t see updates from people I care about.
    And don’t get me started on the mobile experience. Horrible.

    • I think you nailed it. The drive to monetize Facebook is sacrificing everything, and the result is a lesser experience for brands and content creators. Tough road to hoe = an exploration of other vehicles!

  • This was an interesting read.

  • Facebook is proving less and less valuable lately. Back when you could share something on your page and have everyone who liked it get the updates, it was a solid traffic driver. Not so since they’ve decided to throttle content you’ve not paid to promote.

    Off the cuff, I’m seeing less than 20% of the people who like my GBXM page actually getting the updates posted there. Yet, when I hit my personal feed, every other update is marketing crap from corporate interests. If my friends can’t get the updates they signed up to get unless I pay for them, even to the point where the words of friends and family are interrupted with marketing, that’s not much of a user experience.

    Then again, Facebook is free. This means WE are the product. It would just be nice to see some kind of media outlet monetized on substance and value than yet another vehicle to serve up mindless, lowest common denominator pandering advertising.

    I’m working on that.

    • The public disruption caused by monetizing Timeline is really dramatic. I’m not sure how much longer Facebook can get away with it, but hey, maybe they can. Time will tell. I generally see another dozen or so smaller niche platforms gaining steam in its wake so 2013 will be very interesting.

      Looking forward to hearing more about your project.

  • I have had many misgivings with this medium especially since the IPO. I do not like the way FB has managed it’s business.

    • I am with you on that. It’s been the proverbial s(@& show as far as engagement goes. Talk about alienation!

  • I’m really digging EveryMe. I still watch Facebook because in my line of work I have to, but EveryMe lets me take off the filter and say what I would normally say to different circles – my family, work group, dudes I drink beer and play cards with, etc. It’s easy, more permanent than text but FAR less complicated than Facebook, and there’s no pressure because no one outside of a circle will ever know it even exists.

  • Very interesting Geoff and in the last couple of weeks I have been wondering what to say to small business clients about using Facebook to promote their businesses now.

    For most of them, the light just isn’t worth the candle. There are simply better opportunities they should be concentrating on.

    • Agreed. It’s the time expenditure. Plus as an individual I really don’t believe in Fan/Brand Pages very much. At that point I may as well architect a personal brand .

  • How is my business/personal use of Facebook changing? Why, I published a post about it today. My views may seem a little harsh, but I’m being honest: http://www.greeninkcreative.com/stupid-changes/

  • I keep my Facebook presence about 95% personal with the occasional status update – generally with a screenshot – for my business. I do try to acknowledge that we like to do business with people we like, and we generally become friends on Facebook because we like them.

    Some of the friends I’ve met in the last couple of years were friended more because of a common interest (social media, marketing, monitoring), so it only makes sense that I throw a business post on there occasionally.

    Otherwise, I think my blog posts get shared when they are first published, and that is it. I then rely on Triberr for most of my content distribution.

    I’m with you on the lists. Right now, I spend my time going through my feed until I reach the last status I recognize. I probably need to take the time to create the lists. But I do the same thing with Google+. Even though I have some circles, I still generally read my entire feed available to me.

    • Yeah, I find myself reading through whole streams of posts, too. I kind of enjoy it actually. Shows me what’s going on in the general community’s mind. I also do not use Google’s Circles.

  • Don’t forget Klout here >> The first and most dramatic method is to publicly kill their Facebook (LinkedIn, Google+, etc.) account, and then start anew or simply depart. And 90% of the time, these people seem to come back. Doh!

    Good plan to make lists, that is one area that I haven’t explored much on Facebook.

    • Oh yeah, the I am deleting my Klout account because it is filthy evil post. Yup, good catch on that one…

  • Geoff – I think it is too easy to blur the line between personal and business. I also think it is important, in order to maintain one’s sanity, to create some space between personal and professional life.

    After all, do you define yourself by what you do? Or, are you defined by who you are? Contrary to what some may believe, they don’t have to be the same.

    Hehehehehe….I like the Geoff Livington Ant-Fan page. Keep business in the business world and personal in the personal world.


    • No matter what we think, we are defined by what we do, at least from others’ perspectives. Then again, I am a legend in my own mind!

  • I wonder sometimes if it’s only us marketers and social geeks who give a rat’s tuckus about the logistics of our social media accounts! I do the same thing. I obsessively fix, trim, pare, rethink, redo, alter, consider… most people just post pictures of dinner.

    Back in the “ooh shiny” days of Facebook, I used to think it was a super awesome marketing tool. Now I think it super-sucks. I suppose if you’re a big brand with money to throw at the problem and millions of fans then it’s worth having a presence. But for us little peoples and small biz, who can’t throw several hundred or thousand dollars at a single post so our fans will actually see it, I am hard pressed to see the value.

    I maintain a business presence there “just because” but I wouldn’t say I do any real marketing there. And personally I just post pictures of my dinner and see what the chick I knew in 10th grade who I never liked anyway is doing :)

    • I think that’s probably an accurate observation. We’re so concerned with our own presence. And I agree the value doesn’t match the effort, which makes other properties more attractive. That of course makes Facebook a great property if you can afford to broadcast.

  • I too am picky about who I accept as a friend on Facebook, and use it more as a personal social network, except for some groups in which I participate. As a small business owner and marketer, I have found the LinkedIn groups more effective for starting conversations; I don’t have to build the group and most in my target markets already have 10K to 15K members. Organic growth on Facebook, unless you have money to invest, is really slow.
    I enjoy Facebook as a channel to keep up with friends and family, but it has never been a successful business tool for my business. Now my clients with big brands, that is a little different story.

  • I simply never joined the website, and recently decided to not even mention it by name. Eventually it will decline, just like the other networks before it.

    I had an epiphany…the time is ripe to start a new movement…real life social networking. No websites, no texting, no emailing…just meeting people in real life…like previous generations did!

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