An escape plan for brands wanting to delete Facebook from their marketing mix
After a particularly frustrating day as a marketer in Zuck-land earlier this year, I made an off-the-cuff comment to a colleague that I dream of the day I can just delete Facebook.
She laughed, “Yeah, wouldn’t be nice”.
And that was it.There was no follow-through conversation about whether that was actually a possibility. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And it appears I’m certainly not the only marketer who has had their fill of Facebook this year.
So when I sat down this week to outline my strategy for 2021, there was just one big goal at the top of my list:
Delete Facebook. And not just delete it, but THRIVE without it.
For too long, brands have been beholden to the platform. A platform that is not only shown to have toxic side-effects on society’s progression and the mental health of individuals, but that is constantly setting up new rings for brands to jump through if they want to remain in the game.
And for small brands and start ups? Those rings are too high now. And they’re on fire.
The lack of potential for organic growth leaves you no choice but to invest cash you don’t have into Facebook ads, for a brand that hasn’t yet earned the recognition required to see a solid ROI on that investment.
And yes, this is a simplification of my annoyances as a marketer with the platform. But more than anything the reason I want to escape Facebook is because I don’t like it as a consumer myself.
A former Facebook Director Tim Kendall has even accused the platform of profiting off us through division and misinformation in the same way tobacco companies have from addictive cigarettes:
“These algorithms have brought out the worst in us. They’ve literally rewired our brains so that we’re detached from reality and immersed in tribalism,” he said. “This is not by accident. It’s an algorithmically optimized playbook to maximize user attention — and profits.”
I only want to be advocating for and building my company through channels that align with my values as a marketer. And I know I’m not the only one this year after seeing the uprising of brands boycotting Facebook ads and consumers outraged after one watch of the Social Dilemma. But guess what?
We’re all still in there. Nervous to get out of the pool.
I predict 2021 to be the year that it’s possible to disappear off Facebook and not only see a return on that decision through growth, but the recovery of wasted time and mental health.
Now, since I’m clearly not the only one who has pipe-dreamed life as a marketer without Facebook I want to talk you through my escape route.
First things first, let’s break down exactly what it is Facebook provides a brand so that we can identify other ways to hit that criteria. Being the spider that it is Facebook has done its best to tie itself to every KPI along a customer journey. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other channels which not only fulfil those same KPIs, but do it better.
- Engagement and Community
- Leads and conversions
Securing brand awareness
Not so much organically any more, but at the very least Facebook’s advertising options are a key driver in brand awareness for a lot of brands. That energy and digital ad buy could be diverted to other channels which are actually more targeted to the right audience.
For my brand I have a couple of options.
Being the second most popular search-engine worldwide and delivering a powerful range of interactive and engaging ad formats, Youtube is a strong contender. And I’m pretty keen to dive into some more creative approaches to Spotify advertising and podcast sponsorships.
But my main social media channel focus is going to shift to Pinterest.
My primary offering is all about ideas, personal growth, project development and creativity. And Pinterest is the visual discovery tool for exactly that. It’s far less saturated a channel than Facebook, meaning smaller brands still have the potential to grow organically. Once a space for Moms to pin kids craft ideas, 2020 has seen all new audiences move their attention to the platform in unprecedented numbers including Gen Z, males and Millenials. And unlike other social media platforms, Pinterest is more of a search engine than a network, which means the awareness opportunities are enhanced as people are literally searching for what you offer so that the audience who you do get in front of are more likely to be your people.
The real kicker is that throughout the past year I’ve been testing the digital ad potential of the platform and easily achieved double the ROI on just 25% of the ad spend I had directed to Facebook.
My other critical channel for brand awareness is going to be Medium (hello).
Again, this right here is my ideal audience; people interested in personal growth and absorbing new insights and perspectives. And awareness can be gained not just through self publishing on the platform, but guest contributions to other publications. Which means it’s not just awareness I’m growing with my effort each month, but credibility — something lacking for Facebook.
There’s another key reason Medium forms part of my escape plan, and that’s in its ability to host my “heroes”.
Facebook has fuelled a ceaseless hunger for content creation which is a high involvement-low return strategy. So for the past 18 months I’ve been trialling a “hero content” approach which has proven to be overwhelmingly successful. These heroes are the cornerstone pieces of content to underpin all of my other work for the month. And Medium gives me an avenue to host these high-value, long-form hero pieces; anchoring the rest of my content marketing and saving me from the content burn out.
Note: For your own escape plan, Medium and Pinterest may not necessarily be the right channels. Personally, I wish my offering leant itself better to Twitch as I think that would be a brilliant awareness space for the right marketer.
Building engagement and community
The second value derived from Facebook comes from the direct conversations with your audience. This is the space you humanize your brand and develop communication loops. Which makes it potentially the most tricky element to replace. Our own Facebook Group has been a space we have loved and invested time nurturing our community. But I have also seen how these groups have crumbled in the past 12 months as they hit their stride and the toxicity of Facebook seeps in.
Now, Instagram is still okay(ish) for community engagement. There’s less misinformation and more community hype-building. But you are very conscious of how your impact hangs by a thread. You find yourself having to feed the beast all week long in fear that conversation will run cold and you will disappear into oblivion.
And Pinterest and Medium can’t help me here. LinkedIn would be great. But the truth is I don’t enjoy it. I don’t enjoy the posturing or the cadence of conversation in the LinkedIn environment. And the point of my 2021 goal is to replace something I don’t enjoy with something I do.
Which is why I’ve fallen in love with Mighty Networks.
Mighty Networks are a powerful alternative to Facebook Groups. It gives communities true control over their own space and conversations without the pressure of Facebook’s own agenda, and the tools of Mighty Networks unlock remarkable potential for delivering generous content, fostering valuable discussions and nurturing individuals.
I’m also planning to invest my conversation time into other more niche communities away from the social media platform.
Closed Slack communities, platform specific networks and founders communities. These are where I know my contributions to conversation won’t get lost among the trash heap of Facebook misinformation and trolling, and will safely make it into the hands of people who value it.
Leads and conversions
This is the last piece of my escape plan.
I don’t really think Facebook is very good at either of these things, rather they have inserted themselves as an “easy” channel to generate both.
But the truth is, trying to generate leads and conversions through a channel on which people are trying to escape into conversations that you have disrupted with your message is an old marketing mindset. It’s why people hate advertisers. Modern marketing requires respect for your audience.
Database marketing has long been a key focus of my strategy, but in 2021 I want to double-down.
I’m going to be eliminating my free opt-in newsletter and replacing it with paid weekly insights. Counterproductive? Perhaps. But I don’t just want people’s email address. I want an engaged audience.
My free opt-in tools have always been very successful at building my database. They’re generous and always showcase the true value of my service. But it all comes back to the psychology of customer perceived value. If it’s free? It must be low quality. And so by making my opt-ins free I’m ensuring my insights and my effort are immediately worth less than they actually are. Just another cheap brand message in a reader’s inbox, dampening their incentive to open the newsletters in the first place. That’s why Amy Porterfield has to send me 6 emails a day in the hope I’ll open just one of them and decide to give her my money. And FYI, my inbox has now started sending all her emails to my spam folder.
But if my audience were paying to receive those insights every week, even just a few dollars, it incentivises their choice to interact with them. To absorb the learnings and to engage back.
The final element of my escape plan comes back to advocacy.
I want to invest less time in splashing messages across social media channels and more time nurturing my community to drive that message for me. I’ll be focusing on encouraging new referrals, and delivering my own audience the tools to drive my message forward while creating their own best work.
Perhaps it sounds like I am replacing one channel with many. But all of these other elements are activities you need to be doing alongside Facebook anyway. Your marketing channels shouldn’t exist in siloes. You still need earned media for brand credibility, and email marketing for nurturing and conversions, and alternative channels to Facebook for any chance of organic traffic.
Which means your escape route should actually be right in front of you. Find more creative ways to tie your marketing mix together and leave Facebook behind in the cesspool that was 2020.