It’s been nearly a year since I first wrote on the topic of Facebook in a column where I advised readers that “It’s Okay to Be Antisocial”. I am far from either a prophet or a clairvoyant, but the warnings that I sounded have proven to be true, and those who may have dismissed my advice may seem mighty foolish in hindsight. My advice today more than ever is, not to use Facebook more cautiously, but to abandon the platform in its entirety, with that same advice applying to most other so-called social media as well.
Yes, it was not that long ago that I was presenting seminars and writing how social media advertising – Facebook, in particular – was the greatest new development since the Internet itself. Five years ago, I was offering suggestions on how to beat Facebook at its own game, using guerilla marketing techniques on the platform. Sure, we all recognized that the intrusions into our personal privacy were a bit creepy, but the ability to reach targeted marketing prospects seemed to be worth the compromise.
In the beginning, Facebook (originally called Facemash) seemed to represent little more than an awkward attempt by nerdy Harvard undergrads with a lack of actual social skills to meet young women at neighboring colleges. When you think about it, even that original concept exploited the personal privacy of its users. For years, most people were baffled by the company’s continual growth while it failed to show even a penny in profits prior to 2009; however, it did not take long for Facebook to evolve into a money making machine that would be built upon ever-increasing exploitations of personal privacy.
On a personal level, I stopped using Facebook in its entirety in early September of 2020. I actually experienced what I would describe as a 7 to 10 day period of withdrawal, missing the ability to stay in daily touch with countless friends both old and new, but my sense of newly discovered freedom afterward was absolutely refreshing. Over the course of the 10 years or so when I remained active on the platform, I would often joke about how Facebook would “coincidentally” show me advertising that was related to one of my recent posts or comments. When I, along with millions of other people, started using ad blockers, Facebook started showing paid posts in lieu of paid advertising. These paid posts represent advertising content that is being disguised as editorial content, even when that advertising originates with foreign governments or domestic terrorists and clearly represents content that Facebook knows to be untrue.
Facebook’s business model is designed to amass huge profits by intentionally sowing discord among its subscribers. Simply put, the greater the controversy, the greater the profits. Regardless of where a person falls within an increasingly polarized political spectrum, Facebook will show that person paid content that pours fuel on the fire while demonizing those with opposing viewpoints. Whereas media outlets such as Fox News and CNN play to their specific audience demographics, and as such will never reach more than half of a divided population, Facebook profits by selectively appealing to the entire demographic spectrum and taking money from literally anybody who wants to influence them. It is the essence of the company’s algorithms, as has been only partially exposed in recent whistleblower releases of internal documents.
By being fed a one-sided diet that is often based upon disinformation, subscribers’ opinions and beliefs are reinforced in a manner that continually enhances the polarization. Varying opinions regarding the coronavirus pandemic, vaccines, and mask mandates have earned Facebook a fortune in profits. In fact, in a statement released the day prior to this writing, Facebook announced that its revenues increased by 35% to $29 billion in July through September 2021, while profits rose 17% to $9.2 billion as compared to the same time period in the previous year. It should not require an insurrectionist attack upon the U.S. Capitol for reasonable people to understand that these escalating profits represent a rapidly accelerating downward spiral for the platform’s users.
Where do you see your business fitting into this scenario?
Let us be clear that Facebook advertising is not a bargain. In the early days, businesses would pay to advertise on the platform in order to get users to “like” their page and then see their posts. Soon afterward, advertisers needed to pay Facebook so that even people who had already “liked” their page could actually see their posts. Think about it. If you continue to play along, you are paying Facebook an ever-increasing sum of money so you can reach not new customers but your existing customers. Why would anybody pay to do that when there are countless alternate means of reaching your customer base at a far lesser cost? Any why would anybody do this at a time when most campgrounds have experienced unprecedented occupancy levels and can barely keep up with the demand for campsites? In the campground industry, some of the same people who willingly pour money into Facebook advertising question the rationale for offering Good Sam and similar discounts that they feel cut into thin profit margins. Depending upon your available inventory, I would suggest engaging in dynamic pricing or offering customer incentives rather than feeding Facebook’s coffers. After all, your customers who use Facebook can still promote your campground, and even Facebook will admit that direct end user engagement is far more effective than paid advertising. Yes, Facebook and the other social media may be capable of sending you customers, but it is simply not worth the price. Should you decide to continue to pay to play, what is the percentage of your profit margin and what is the threshold for return on investment where you will finally decide that it is time to kick the habit? The costs to participate will only continue to escalate, as Facebook rolls out its next generation of social interaction, the so-called “metaverse” that is based upon 3-D virtual reality and the use of its Oculus VR headsets. There are people who will argue that you will have to be there as well, but I will argue that they are wrong and that Dr. Frankenstein’s monster is out of control. The Federal Trade Commission has wisely proposed the breakup of Facebook, a process that is long overdue. In the meantime, it is your decision as a small business owner to decide whether or not to continue financing a business model that you may agree is inherently exploitive and basically wrong.
This post was written by Peter Pelland