I remember sitting in the audience at the very first “big” conference I had ever attended. I was surrounded by people who were taking action, investing in themselves and their business, and talking about things no one at the local networking groups I had been attending for more than a year were talking about.
There were about 500 people crammed in a too-small ballroom in Los Angeles and there was excitement in the air. We were learning about new tools, tactics, and strategies for building our businesses online — email marketing, search engine optimization, blogging for business, WordPress, and this new thing called social media.
We learned about this website that had started just for college kids, but was now a place that entrepreneurs and business owners could connect and be friends and talk business using the internet.
They were talking about Facebook.
At the time it was new and exciting. My family and parents didn’t know about it, and none of my adult friends knew about it either — no one I knew, except some college friends had a Facebook account.
Everyone was buzzing about Facebook, about how it was this new marketing tool that business owners could use to market and sell their products and services online. Suddenly there was a way to network online and no longer would business owners be limited to their own geographic location.
At that moment, for many of us, Facebook wasn’t yet a vehicle for connecting with true friends, it was a tool for widening the reach of our businesses and marketing messages.
So, I did what everyone at that event did — I became friends with everyone. Then we became friends with their friends, and friends of their friends, with no thought to how this would play out long term.
Within months, people I knew were at their “friend limit,” some starting a “second profile.” Others were reaching their friend limit and they hadn’t yet even connected with their real life, true friends who were now starting to join Facebook.
I at one point was close to 5,000 friends… well sort-of friends that is.
When my real life friends began joining Facebook, I accepted their friend requests and sent many of my own. I was excited to reconnect with college and high school friends and see photos of their families and find out what they had been up to.
But I had a problem.
I knew Facebook only as a business tool. I struggled to find balance between business posts and personal posts. I was listening to advice from the early social media experts about how to market on Facebook, how often to post, and how to use it for business.
But now it wasn’t just a business tool.
I felt weird posting family stuff when many of my connections were business peers, friends, and acquaintances. But at the same time, I know my old friends and non-business friends with business didn’t want to see and didn’t care about business stuff — and I know I alienated some of my friends with the frequency of which I was posting, as I would login everyday for business, and they (like most people at the time) would login maybe once a week to look at photos.
Over time, I began to despise Facebook.
I hated the social business crap. I was exhausted from the constant push. It felt gross. I didn’t see posts from people I really cared about or wanted to see posts from. My feed was full of marketing spam, pushy sales pitches, and link after link to blog posts that all sounded the same. I wanted to just use it for fun and I regretted ever getting started with Facebook as a business tool.
Facebook had become one big mess of spam and marketing throw up and it was my fault.
I allowed it to happen — and I knew I wasn’t the only one, because at other online business conferences and events, the same feelings were echoed by others repeatedly.
At some point in 2008, I created a Facebook business page to try to separate business and personal content, but let’s be honest, pages have never been great.
People would visit a page once, like it, and never come back. Or they were hesitant to like anything because Facebook was already full of enough spam and marketing. Then over time, it became clear that posts from pages got barely any visibility, and if you wanted people to see your posts, then you’d have to pay for it.
Today Bourn Creative still has a Facebook page. It’s still there because others expect businesses to have one and if you don’t they question whether you really know what you’re doing or not. We post updates on our Facebook page so it stays current, but that’s it.
We have never had the need or the desire to pay for a boost, or visibility, or page ads, or even fake likes. Yes, it’s terrible, but people do it! Crazy, I know. So the page limps along, gaining a few likes a week from people who really like our content or heard me speak and want to stay in touch (thank you). After seven years, we have earned 1,880 real page likes, and to be transparent, I have no idea what that even means.
Whether or not Bourn Creative has a Facebook page has made no difference in our success.
In fact, there were times when several months would go by and nothing would be posted to the Bourn Creative page (I’m much better about it now), and yet new business still showed up in droves. This just proved that investing a bunch of time or money in getting likes didn’t matter.
Facebook frustration set in big time.
Facebook began to feel gross. It felt like a waste of time. I had bought into the initial idea that Facebook was a business tool, and I built a big network, and now I needed to fix the mess I had created.
So the great Facebook clean up journey began.
Brian simply logged in one day and deleted everything he had ever posted and unfriended everyone but me. Now he only uses Facebook to stay in touch with close friends and the WordPress community, and get concert announcements for Dead & Co. and Dead cover bands.
But for me it wasn’t as cut and dry. I began unfriending, unfollowing, and hiding people in an attempt to change my algorithm and my overall experience with Facebook.
While those I know closely get more leeway, in general here’s my thought process:
- I unfriended names/avatars I didn’t recognize or felt like I had never seen. I figured if I have never seen you in my feed, you probably don’t interact with me and I don’t interact with you.
- I unfriended people who got really political, religious, or judgmental in their posts too often for my taste. I support everyone having their own beliefs and opinions, it just isn’t what I want to see and experience.
- I unfriended those who repeatedly post those “if you really care, you’ll post this message on your wall messages.
- I unfriended people who sent me sales pitches through private messages.
- I unfollowed people I want to stay connected with, but don’t need to see their posts in my stream every day — like those who post too often, post an insane amount of photos, post sales pitches and blatant marketing spam, complain a lot, get too negative, or get too political.
- I even hid all posts from a few people I love, so I can enjoy their posts when I want to, and not be overwhelmed by them every day.
I also got much pickier about what I like and what I comment on. Facebook changes what you see in your feed based on your activity. For example, if I liked several photos of babies, suddenly I was seeing a bunch of baby related posts.
So I began liking fewer and fewer posts. Now I am conscious of what types of posts I like and who published the post. I do more commenting than liking. Now, often I’ll comment with a heart or thumbs up if I like a post instead of clicking the like button. I also barely ever RSVP to events on Facebook, which has reduced the event spam that was filling my feed. I take advantage of the opportunity to block certain people from inviting me to events too, as some people send invited every week!
But the journey isn’t over.
Over the past year, my experience with Facebook has definitely improved.
Our business page is still there, and we still publish content to it, and we are still not interested in paying for anything because I still wholeheartedly believe that the number of Facebook likes a business has doesn’t equal success.
My personal experience on the platform is getting better as time goes by, as I’m diligent about how I use it and I continue to actively manage my connections/friends.
Now I have far fewer Facebook friends and see much less spammy marketing crap in my feed. I see more from friends and family, I see more of what I am interested in, I see more legitimate business conversation, and I experience more positivity.
What does this mean for business?
As I was writing this post, I wondered if publishing this on the Bourn Creative blog was really appropriate. I wondered if this story really belongs on an agency business blog?
As I thought about it, I remembered the 500 other people at the same event I was at. I thought of all the people who have attended similar events. I thought of all of the business contacts, peers, friends, and acquaintances I have connected with love the past 10 years who share the same story.
While Facebook isn’t going to make or break your success, it is a worldwide platform that every business owners, entrepreneur, and professional is expected to be a part of.
- Today if we come across a business that doesn’t have a Facebook page, it’s weird and we wonder why.
- We use Facebook to check up on people we meet to see if they are really who they say they are — or if they are legit.
- People around the world turn to Facebook to ask their friends to recommend service providers, products, and programs.
And yet many early adopters began to hate Facebook.
In some ways, I envy the marketers and business owners who have no problem using Facebook to constantly push their teleseminars, webinars, virtual summits, conferences, products, and programs through posts, events, ads, sponsored posts, and other avenues — and I highly respect those who are able to do it with integrity.
I sometimes wish making the sale was more important to me. But it’s just not. Maybe that’s because we’re a pure services company and every sale directly affects me and who I interact with on a daily basis. Maybe it’s different for a product company or an entrepreneur selling a program. I don’t know.
What I do know is that my time isn’t best spent marketing on Facebook.
- I want to put my head down, do great work, continue to learn and improve, write great content, and let my actions speak for themselves.
- I want to build a reputation of quality work done with integrity that attracts amazing clients.
- I hope to always put what is best for our clients and potential clients first, even if that means turning down a sale.
- I hope to continue to use social media as a vehicle for building and nurturing relationships — and if business does spring from that, it’s a bonus.
Facebook — because of my own actions — had become a necessary evil I felt forced to deal with. But now I’m fixing that. It’s taking time, and it’s continually getting better, and I’m managing it actively now.
Today, I once again enjoy Facebook.
- The Bourn Creative business page is doing well.
- I now manage the Sacramento WordPress meetup & WordCamp page which had lots of activity leading up to WordCamp Sacramento.
- I am happy with my personal experience and my professional experience.
And who knows, I am launching my own personal blog soon, and I may someday use Facebook to market it — in my own way that aligns with what feels right for me.
The biggest lesson I have learned — and it is one I hope you learn too — is that no platform stays the same year after year, and no strategy or tactic works the same way forever.
Your business changes over time, platforms shift over time, you grow and evolve over time, and your marketing strategies and actions need to do the same. Just be sure to listen to your gut and pursue marketing your business based on your own goals and values, not on what some “social media guru” tells you to do.