Users are fleeing from Facebook, citing privacy concern, and ad spend is up on other platforms. Is it time for your business to pull the plug?

Facebook 2004-2018

The Internet community is in mourning over the recent passing of one of its greatest champions, Facebook, after a long battle with bots and privacy leaks. Born in a Harvard dorm room in 2004, Facebook approached its early life with an eye toward connecting people. Beginning at Harvard and soon spreading its wings to colleges across the country, it came into its own when it opened its doors to those who no longer had .edu email address. Its tremendous success as a social media platform was matched only by its dizzying profitability as it offered its advertisers what amounted to a captive audience. Sadly, its success would be its undoing as greater profitability demanded greater access to user information, scaring away users and advertisers alike. It is survived by its acquisitions Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus VR and by 2.23 billion users.

Ok, so it may be premature to write Facebook’s obituary. While it is still without a doubt the big heavy in the social media world it’s hard to look at recent events and think that suddenly the big blue F is seeming a little more vulnerable than it ever has.

“It’s complicated.”

Let’s start with founder Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before Congress a few months back, triggered by concerns about user privacy after Cambridge Analytica was given improper access to the personal information of nearly 87 million users. Besides resulting in some hilarious memes and an apology ad that was everywhere for a few weeks, these hearings also showed the first chink in Facebook’s armor.

Two months later, spooked by quarterly reports that showed lower growth than expected, Facebook’s investors fled from the stock, causing the largest one-day loss by any company in history. In a single day, Facebook’s value plummeted by $119 billion. For comparison’s sake we’ll point out that the GDP of Hungary is $129 billion. Facebook lost nearly an entire Hungary’s worth of money.

It was a bad day, but it was really just the culmination of several months’ worth of spiraling for the company. Back in February, AdWeek was pointing out the decline in younger users but assuring readers that advertisers were still maintaining ad spend.

By March, advertisers from Pep Boys to Mozilla had ceased advertising, prompting Salon to write that advertisers were “fleeing.”

By June, DigiDay was reporting on an informal poll they conducted among direct-to-consumer brands that showed all of them were pulling ads from Facebook.  

By July, ad spend on other platforms like Instagram and YouTube had skyrocketed. On YouTube, that ad spend tripled. On Instagram, it had quadrupled. While this showed impressive growth, it is important to note that ad spend on both platform paled in comparison to the money pouring in for Facebook ads.

But this is all Wall Street and Madison Avenue’s problem. What does it mean for your small business? Does a shrinking user base mean you should be pulling away from Facebook as well?

Well, to quote the relationship status that has sparked a million arguments, it’s complicated.

Know your audience.

By this point, you’ve no doubt invested a considerable amount of time and energy into building your community of followers on Facebook. Even it it’s just one of the many platforms you use to promote your business, it still represents the largest user base and those users are your customers.

While advertisers may be moving to platforms like Instagram and YouTube, it could very well be that your marketing message demands the more flexible options offered through Facebook in terms of not being held to a particular format (photo, video, etc.). It could also very well be that your target audience does not have much in common with the younger crowd who is currently fleeing Facebook.

Related: Measuring ROI on Social Media

Essentially, all this means for you is that it warrants a closer examination of your overall social media strategy. Keep devoting the time and energy to Facebook alongside your other platforms, but make sure you’re keeping an eye on which ones are delivering the most bang for your buck. As Zenchange pointed out, as long as you’re building a community that is interested in what you do, you’ll be less reliant on whatever changes might come next for Facebook.

The reports of Facebook’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated, but they do highlight how important it can be for small businesses to not only establish a diversified social media presence, but also to be vigilant of where their audience is going.

Related: Facebook Zero: What You Should Know

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