Facebook should NOT be your business

Part of the process of surviving a business is to promote it. You’ve put time, money and effort to grow it to its current state and you would like to retain (and ideally improve) on the growth rate. You’ve come to realise that the internet is another potential income stream and you need to cultivate and grow it. Each lead enforces your belief that a web presence is essential and you’ve decided to invest in growing this business branch.

You consider setting up your online business on Facebook. After all you spend a considerable amount of time reading (and liking) posts of others. The Facebook like and thumbs up logo adorns every leaflet, brochure and shop window. According to Wikipedia, Facebook has more than 2 billion active monthly users. If you manage to tap into 0.01% (or even 0.001%) of this population it would shoot your sales off all your existing charts.

Another interesting property of Facebook is that it is free. This fits quite nicely into your notion that everything on the internet is free. What is more, the many hours you’ve spent on the platform means that you are familiar with it and feel that, unaided, you can setup your business. If you hit a blocking point you can also research a free solution online. You also recall having skimmed over an ad for a company that offers added functionality on Facebook. If this venture take off you could engage their services.

This article explains why Facebook is a bad idea for your online platform.

Facebook can change its business model at any time and you can do absolutely nothing about it.
You do not control Facebook; Facebook controls Facebook. At the flick of a switch Facebook will break a feature or function your online business model considers critical. For example, Business Insider reported how LittleThings, an online publisher with 12 million Facebook followers shut down after a tweak to an algorithm drove traffic to LittleThings down by 75%. And LittleThings wasn’t the only victim of this change. The WSJ reported that Cooking Panda and Opposing Views also shut down because of this change. Countless others may have survived the ordeal but at what cost?

Facebook owns your clients not you. Facebook wants you to do the leg work to increase the number of people who interact with you but they ultimately control your ability to link to them. Facebook has algorithms that are studying your every move and has implemented functions in which you have to pay to be able to link up with audience you worked hard to cultivate.

Facebook is a for-(its own)-profit company In a 2017 article on Digiday, Jessica Davies reported that The Guardian and The New York Times pulled out altogether from Facebook’s Instant Articles platform. BBC News, National Geographic and The Wall Street Journal were winding down their presence on the platform. The reason for this change in direction was the fact that these organisations realised that on Facebook’s platform they were making less money than on their own web site. The 2 Billion monthly active users did not ultimately translate to more revenue. Encouraging their customers to move away from their own web sites to Facebook’s was tantamount to hastening their own decline when customers would abandon them for Facebook’s platform. The highest cost for a business is to gaining a new customer and these companies where giving them to Facebook for free.

Facebook is not free, you are its income
Nothing is life is free. Facebook is not the only company that monetises on what is apparently free content. Many individuals are more than happy to share their habits, movements and life patterns in order to avoid charging their credit card. What if Facebook sells patterns, behaviours and clients of your business to the competition? How will that impact your business?

Facebook controls what you can and can’t do.
Imagine you decide you want to align your business with 3rd party. Since Facebook controls the ecosystem you may be prevented from inserting the applet that makes this possible. You may complain, but the T&C make it very clear that, Facebook own the platform and not you.

After the Cambridge Analytica breech, Facebook locked down the 3rd party app platform. Genuine app providers that played by the rules and provided value-added functionality were caught in the fray. Rather than implement enforceable control mechanisms and fine tune the data availability algorithms, Facebook applied a machete solution to everyone. An article in the LA Times titled “Facebook needed third-party apps to grow. Now it's left with a privacy crisis” by David Pierson explains how the company took a decision to limit the data to app developers concluding that “While the breadth of data now available to app developers has diminished, experts say it has only increased for Facebook.”

You do not understand Facebook
Knowing how to like a post and where to click to make a friend does not mean you understand Facebook. Only Facebook understands Facebook and this is a highly guarded secret. During the US congressional hearings, the evasiveness of Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg became evident when he refused to answer questions about topics a CEO should be aware of.

Before the European GDPR regulation, a simple task such as leaving the platform was a massive ordeal with a labyrinth requiring the navigation of endless pages, obtrusive links and emotional queues that the majority would find too cumbersome to deal with. Even if you managed to leave the platform, Facebook was still tracing you through your friends and other products it owns.

Every few months it seems that some new shady Facebook function surfaces with CEO Mark Zuckerberg coming out to apologize. A chronicle of these was compiled by CBS (https://www.cbsnews.com/video/timeline-of-mark-zuckerbergs-apologies/). The model adapted by the company is to implement money making functions without telling anyone and then say “I’m sorry”, when the wrong-doing is discovered.

So how should you promote your business?

You should promote your business by owning the core elements that make up your online presence. They are your online clients and your ability to make contact with them; your image and the ability to modify it; your ability to add or remove features and features without any “super entity” having the final say on the matter.

Facebook (and Twitter, Google+, Instagram and other platforms) should be your pawns to help you maximise your activity without giving up control of the core functions. A promotion should be to drive traffic to your place on the web and not to the social platforms that you will never own or control.

A website is an effective way to achieve this. Many companies offer solutions that make the task quite straightforward: select the functions you need, select the template (or skin) for your website, modify the defaults to make it your own. Many have components such as shopping carts that you can incorporate at the touch of a button. You may find free solutions, but a few Euros a month will get you a high quality, ad-free solution complete with your very own domain.

The purpose of this article is not to promote any particular solution. Hop over to the Wikipedia page “Comparison of free web hosting services” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_free_web_hosting_services) for a list of commercial web-site building solutions. Features such as Page builder and Templates allow non-techies to setup a web site. The columns starting with the word Custom allow more technical control over content and presentation. Some of the solutions have great company and/or community managed support facilities.


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