“Leaving” facebook because you are fed up with the changes to the privacy policies? Or have you all of a sudden decided that facebook is...

2011 Facetox anyone ?


“Leaving” facebook because you are fed up with the changes to the privacy policies? Or have you all of a sudden decided that facebook is a hateful energy sponge and not the intelligent social network you would like to brand yourself with? Some people are indeed very marmite about it and have vehemently left ‘the book’ shortly after signing up. This is not new news, infact we referred to it in a blog re: our predictions for 2010. Facebook have been dominating headlines at least twice a year since they launched with regards to their revised privacy policies. And we’ve all moaned about it. But up until very recently, I haven’t seen many people in my network “leave”. In January, I did resolve to remove any personal information from my page, tighten up my privacy settings and stop using ‘Places’ for fear of alerting spammers and thieves as to when I’m not home and have certainly been more selective about what I share. I’m on a facetox.

But, is it just me, or is there a bit of a trend growing? No, it’s not shoulder pads or the revival of white leather brogues, but rather a quiet exodus from facebook. Prompted by this video I saw recently , I’ve been thinking a lot about leaving facebook, and have noticed more and more people disappear from my friend list with dramatic, final status updates telling the world they are leaving. The video I mention earlier is written by Ross Gardiner and produced by Sonny Side Films – it’s a humorous, but poignant look at why he decided to leave facebook 6 months ago. Within a few days, the views skyrocketed from a few hundred to over a million. Michaela likes this.

In 2010 I must admit I hardly noticed anyone leave, or consider leaving. But 2011? Oh it’s positively de rigueur. So far this year, I’ve seen just over 10% of my “friends” leave facebook. And more and more people (clients, suppliers, the gentleman who runs my local Chippie...) are talking to me about their recent account deactivation. The leavers all state that they were deleting their accounts because they were either concerned about their privacy, or they were sick of it consuming their lives. Start typing ‘how to delete’ into Google and the most popular auto fill is ‘how to delete my facebook account’. Personally, I have invested a lot of time time uploading photos to facebook (over 200 albums in fact) - the last 5 years of my life are documented there - and no where else! For that reason alone, I am not sure at what point, for me, the privacy issues will outweigh the value of a single destination that is storing all of my photos.

Last year, you may have seen the campaign: http://www.quitfacebookday.com/. They had just over 38k people sign-up and commit to leaving on the same day. I don’t know how many of those 38k actually left facebook, but I’ll wager not many. I also saw a brief report from Tech Crunch in 2010 about a mass exodus of early adopters - many of them Google Engineers. Did one of them scare the rest? Did Google decide that being on facebook was a sign of disloyalty? Or do they know something we don’t? Read it here.

This begs the question: When people leave facebook, where are they going? A quick search on twitter reveals thousands upon thousands of people either considering leaving, or rejoicing in having left. Natural churn or increasing trend? Although still in Alpha, will sites like Diaspora gain popularity with their “Share what you want, with whom you want.” approach? Should facebook be worried? MySpace weren’t, but should have been. According to many facebook users in forums, have have recently left or have tried to leave, facebook are making it harder for you to leave, technically – the deactivate button is hidden in layers within your settings. And when you leave, facebook displays profiles of people you interact with most and in a final attempt to get you to stay, they tell you that “Sarah XXX will miss you!”. How cunning. Faceguilt.

And of course, being a marketer, I have been asking myself if brands should be taking note of this? The number of people leaving is probably overshadowed by the many more thousand signing up every day but with brands and services investing heavily to increase their presence in social media, it’s worth a moments consideration. All of a sudden every agency in London has an Social Media offering and everything from your favourite yoghurt to your choice of toilet roll seems to have a facebook page. At a social media conference I attended recently, facebook UK’s David Parfect reiterated facebook’s vision not only to become your homepage, but to increase it’s search function to rival Google’s. All the Brand Managers at the talk seemed reassured that their investments into developing pages was money well spent. My personal opinion is that a brand page on facebook should serve only as a portal into other brand sites and destinations, not replace micro-sites. Why? Well, you have no control over where the data, or the apps and programs you are developing are stored. It is not your, or your agencies server. If facebook crashed and went under tomorrow, you would lose everything. Brands and agencies would do well to remember this: Use facebook as nothing more than an elaborate and interactive banner ad, for want of a better metaphor – it’s a way of driving people to your website. Nothing more.

So I guess it’s apt that after a month and a bit into my facetox, I’m falling off the wagon and am right back into the swing of social addiction. I’ll probably be with facebook to the bitter end, and I know I’m not the only one. There will of course be Mark Zuckerburg and Andrex.

By Michaela MacIntyre (@mich_maci)

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