If you follow social media news, you’ve most likely heard of EAT24’s recent “break-up letter” to Facebook. The food-delivery brand is known for not taking itself too seriously, and the brand’s blog post succeeds in delivering a dose of good humor while declaring in an underlying serious fashion that EAT24 is done with the likes of Facebook (pun intended).
If you aren’t aware of the issue at hand that brought about the public split, let’s get you quickly up to speed.
Facebook introduced changes to its news feed algorithm late last year which limits the organic reach of content posted to brand pages. This means those 10,000 people behind the Likes you have on your brand page won’t all see your posted content. How deep is the pain? Valleywag cites a source familiar with Facebook’s strategy claiming the social network is in the process of slashing organic reach down to 1-2%. The only way to reach those people who like your page would be to buy your way through the limitations and pay Facebook to get your post to those people. EAT24 finds this unacceptable, so they let Facebook know they were done with them because of it.
Facebook’s Brandon McCormick posted a response (direct link no longer available but is quoted accurately by Mashable) in defense claiming the changes were brought about because of an ever changing landscape as well as user-experience concerns, and included a bit of humor of his own while ending his missive with “we totally respect you if you need some space”.
Okay, you’re all caught up.
Facebook failed EAT24 (the brand was incensed enough to call them out publicly and walk away) and the root causes of the issue are much more simple than algorithms, organic reach, and pay-walls. In fact, they have nothing to do with social media at all.
Violate Your Brand Values at Your Own Peril
Stay true to who you are. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Lessons we learn as children that help to establish a moral base to build our views of the world upon. Think of who your friends are, who your business partners are, who you do business with. You will find that you share key values with many of these people, companies, and brands. If trust and integrity are important to you, how do you react when a friend who you understood to value trust and integrity violates trust with you? If the environment is a cause you care about, how do you respond when a company or brand who claims to value the environment is found to actively cause it harm? The roots of relationships are tied together by shared values and watered by continued commitment to those values.
How does this apply to Facebook? It’s clear from EAT24’s break-up letter that the cheeky company is accusing Facebook of being disingenuous, and in turn betraying the values they established for themselves. Facebook’s own career page outlines the company’s values and states boldly “We’re making the world more open and connected.” and “We don’t have rules. We have values.” I haven’t even delved into each individual value they espouse and I already have an issue reconciling the behavior with the words. Whether you’re an individual or a brand, if your actions are found to be contrary to your words, you quickly erode trust and create cause for reevaluation of the relationships others have with you.
To Keep Your Customers: Grow Service Value, Don’t Remove It
When you build an offering for your target market, the worst thing you can do along the way is remove value from the table. Worse yet, expect the relationship to remain the same after you do so. In suppressing organic reach and directing brands to its pay services to unlock that reach, Facebook is taking value off the table that has already been presented openly during the era when it was courting people and brands alike. Expectations have been set and it’s always a difficult trek back from these expectations.
Facebook wants to monetize its platform and generate revenue, they are after all a business and not a charity. I’ve heard this blanket statement quite a bit, and I fully agree. The point of contention is not Facebook wanting to monetize its platform, the issue is the value they’ve pulled away, the changing of the ground rules, and the significance of that change. While EAT24 is most likely using the site freely, they have spent time, money, and effort building and investing in their Facebook presence; now the investment comes into question because value has evaporated. Does Facebook have to continue providing free value? No. If they want to be successful however, they need to clearly build out and communicate the value proposition, and this is even more critical if they are going to evolve their core model. What value replaces what was once there?
Like great negotiators at a bargaining table, great brands find ways to add value to the equation for both parties. Success comes from a win-win philosophy. Facebook could introduce a subscription package for brands that includes new premium reach-generating products, a deeper analytics package, more robust and interactive brand pages, advanced company site content integration, “inbound” marketing tools. Facebook shows quite clearly that they lack the creativity to create new value, so they’ve changed the rules and gated prior value to create an upside for themselves, and in turn, nothing new in the relationship for the brand customers.
At a time when Facebook is obviously searching for new revenue streams, the approach they’ve taken only serves to bring into question the value of the relationship brands have with the social media giant. It doesn’t matter how big you are, how successful you are, if you stray from your values you will lose face. (pun once again intended)