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Brand Strategy   |   Marketing Communications


An Exploratory (And Validation) in Facebook Annoyance

fb“I hate Facebook.”

I hear this phrase quite regularly – as both an early adopter and as a social media manager. Sure, we all have trivial reasons for loathing the social media giant, but I wanted to explore further – through knowledge, research and Facebook peers – what the root cause of the disdain could be. Of course, my first stop was Google.

I searched for “I hate Facebook” on Google and was returned 814 million results. It’s strange to think that this many individuals in the world have an issue with Facebook, but it’s true. You and I hear those three little words all of the time. Users hate it so much they take small breaks, create two accounts to avoid certain users, merge accounts with spouses, or worst-case scenario: deactivate completely. (“But wait, isn’t that social suicide?”)

One would think that users wouldn’t have an issue with a company that easily connects so many individuals across the world instantly – for free. But suffice it to say, it’s human nature to have opinions, and luckily, there are plenty of them about (and on) Facebook.

So I continued my research and started asking around: “Why do you hate Facebook?”

“Too addicting.”
“Too narcissistic.”
“I don’t have enough time for it anymore.”
“The people I’m friends with seem unstable. And superficial.”
“The privacy settings are too complicated.”
“They are selling my stuff to third parties.”
“When is the ‘share to win’ trend going to be over?”
“I hate Timeline. And how do you even use it?”
“It’s nothing but advertising.”
“No, I don’t want to buy your products or play Farmville.”
“My parents are on it now. Need I say more?”
“Photo tagging. Not okay with that. Don’t these folks know I’m employed?”
“It’s basically a trip to my 10-year reunion. Every day.”
“I don’t know why. I just hate it.”

Which obviously led me to ask: So, why are you still on it?”

Response: “Good question.”

The bottom line is this: even though we have some level of aggravation, we still need Facebook. And we still use it addictively and very often. The proof is in the data. We’ll get to that later.

Facebook loathing is a funny, confusing and seemingly ancient thing. As a member of Facebook since 2005 (I still log in with my college email address – don’t tell), I have witnessed a steady stream of annoyance. If the layout isn’t being drastically redesigned, then a key feature is changed…much to the chagrin of overly comfortable users.

Over the years I’ve watched Facebook go from exclusive to inclusive: from just your clique of college friends, to your parents and their friends (and their 13-year old children) and now, their companies. I’ve seen “pokes” come and go (and come again), and watched Mark Zuckerberg’s face disappear from the website masthead. I’ve seen ads appear only on the right rail of the Newsfeed and then quietly migrate into the actual user’s Newsfeed. Remember when we could give our friends Facebook badges and buttons, or draw them graffiti? Or, back when there was only a Wall and no Newsfeed or inbox messages? Or perhaps you remember the days when users didn’t want to add you to their birthday calendar or ask you to share spammy status updates so you don’t get bad luck for life. And how we long for the days when Facebook didn’t notify our friends list that we occasionally like to listen to Celine Dion.

Those were the innocent days.

And that’s the point. Facebook isn’t as innocent or personal as it once was. It’s now an enormous, publicly traded, money-making advertising machine. It’s the third largest “country” in the world with over 1 billion monthly active users, 618 million daily active users and over 37 million company pages. Users spend 20 minutes per visit on Facebook, often visiting multiple times daily from desktops and mobile devices. In fact, 680 million people access Facebook from mobile devices, making it the most downloaded mobile app in the United States.

So, if Facebook is still so dominant (and by dominant I mean that 67% of online Americans have an account), then what is the real issue? Where does the hatred stem from? Aside from everyday annoyance, let me offer insight into possible root causes of the disdain.

1. IT’S SIMPLY TOO BIG.
It’s a dilemma: how much bigger can you get while still remaining intimate? After all, we share very personal things about our lives on Facebook, and if users don’t feel safe sharing personal photos or information, what good is having an account? Fear plays a large role in the loathing. Sharing status updates won’t protect you from Facebook selling your photos to third parties, but actually, they never said they would.

2. EDGERANK DECIDES FOR YOU.
Do you ever feel like you see the same people in your Newsfeed over and over again? “I’m friends with 1,000 people, why do I only see 50 of them?” It’s because of something called Facebook Edgerank. Edgerank is an algorithm that Facebook uses to determine what friends and content are important to you. Basically, it’s meant to ensure that engagement is optimized and spam is minimized. The more you interact with a person or a page, the more Facebook thinks they are “important” to you, which means you’ll see them more. Facebook isn’t as enjoyable when the same person is constantly clogging up your stream – sharing multiple photos of their dog (guilty!) or checking in all over town. You want variety. You want to see what all of your friends are doing. Unfortunately, this isn’t happening.

Edgerank also applies to company pages. The more engagement brand posts get, the more likely they are to appear in the Newsfeed. This factor should push brands to make their social content more engaging than ever. The more comments, posts, shares and likes you get, the more Facebook recognizes it as “important,” which will move the post to the top of your followers’ Newsfeeds.

3. IT’S OFFICIALLY A BUSINESS MARKETING TOOL.
Companies have gotten the memo – Facebook is a great place to make valuable connections with consumers and promote products and services on a global scale. In fact, research has found that 77% of B2C companies and 43% of B2B companies have acquired customers via Facebook. Additionally, 80% of social media users prefer to connect with brands through Facebook.

That’s powerful data for marketers, but from a consumer standpoint, it may be getting a little crowded. When I asked several Facebook users why they “hated” the channel, many said they felt it had become overrun with advertising. This isn’t entirely untrue. In addition to appearing on the right side of the Newsfeed, Facebook has recently allowed some ad units to appear in the actual Newsfeed stream. The ad unit appears as an actual post, which can be intrusive for users (but highly effective from a brand engagement standpoint). Another upside for marketers is that these Newsfeed ad units now appear on mobile devices, which is a part of Facebook’s 2013 push to become a fully functional mobile platform.

4. GENERALLY SPEAKING, IT’S ANNOYING.
I recently read that 85% of women are annoyed by their friends on Facebook. Well, the good news is that there are many other places users can go now. While Facebook growth remains steady, there are new social channels popping up daily to offer users a unique social experience: Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Path, Vine, Google+, Pinterest and even MySpace is being reinvented. Each of these social channels functions differently and appeals to users in unique ways; however, they are not a “one-stop shop” as Facebook is. Facebook, by far, is the closest users can get to connecting with the majority of friends (and favorite brands) in one place online. The fact that 92% of all social networking site users keep at least an active Facebook profile says a lot about the channel’s popularity and market share.

So, what does all of this mean? Facebook means different things to different people. For me personally, it’s a way to check up on college friends, stay updated on the latest offerings from brands and blogs, remember birthdays and privately communicate via group pages. For others, it may be a way to voice opinions, play games, share photos of grandkids or take part in company contests or giveaways. But even with the variety of ways we use Facebook, we consumers have a common bond: we all get annoyed. And it’s ok to say it, and not be sure why.

about Anne-Lauren Fratesi, Social Media Account Executive at The Ramey Agency

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