For the past seven years, I have take a self-imposed hiatus from Facebook for about a month. Some years I learn something from the break, most years I don’t. This year I learned that I don’t want to be on Facebook anymore.
I get Facebook for work. I live it; it’s my bread-and-butter. But, I no longer see its value in my personal life, and it’s time to do something about that.
Facebook can make my work a smashing success (or a failure). It can make me feel like I’m wildly well-respected as a professional, and completely stupid as fuck all in the same week.
I coach companies to put transparency first in their communication strategy. Yet few marketers actually apply this to their personal Facebook personas. The truth is, we tell Facebook what we want to broadcast, transparency aside. We professional crafters are the worst offenders; we craft how we appear to our friends, a gentle balance of self-deprecation,humor, wit and humility. With Facebook, we build our personal brand right alongside those we are paid to build.
So, after much thought, I’ve determined that I can’t have both a belief in corporate transparency online and not be willing to be transparent myself. My Facebook account has to go.
I’ve been thinking about this for awhile…
In July 2013, I had 600 Facebook friends — people I am connected to for work, childhood pals, parents of my kids’ friends, ex-work colleagues and a zillion acquaintances. But, only a few handful of those I’m lucky enough to call Friends. My Friends knew all hell was breaking loose in my personal life last year, yet not one single FB post reflected what was going on. It was all crafted. So what about the other 580 people?
In October my login data on Facebook Account page showed that I visited about 35 times daily. This might sound shockingly high, but a new study reveals most people check their Facebook page an average of 14 times daily from their smartphones alone. Since I work on Facebook about 15 percent of my time, I’d say 35 times daily wasn’t so bad.
Except, I still felt bad. Why? Because I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching. My posts had Zero Transparency. If I wasn’t going to post what was really going on in my personal life, then what was the point of having Facebook at all? It became clear over time: Facebook is my work, and, (as it should be) there is no room for my personal life at work.
Here’s how I broke up with The Face Book.
October 2013 — I parsed out any people on Facebook who I wouldn’t want to send a holiday card to. I took my Facebook friends from 640 to about 200, hoping to increase the signal:noise ratio and focus on better, more meaningful personal content. In contrast, however, in October I moved nearly all of my client’s marketing budget INTO Facebook spend — promoted posts, sponsored posts, retargeting campaigns, contests, sweepstakes, more.
November 2013 — My work on FB was at full-throttle but in contrast, my personal life was radio silent online. The irony of that still embarrasses me. How did I get from being an evangelist for social transparency and yet say nothing about my real life? My posts were hidden behind mildly entertaining content and prideful boasts of my kids. Nothing about ME was shared. I’m a peacock.
December 2013 — My colleagues’ work was bleeding into my Facebook stream, causing even more muddy waters between personal and professional life. During the end-of-the-year flurry, my blogger friends began posting on behalf of brands they represent at a furious pace — “Enter My Giveaway! Merry Christmas Friends! Here’s a Craft from Sponsor X!” We, the anti-spammers had become just that. Moreover, I was all-too-aware that I was both a client and a consumer of these Facebook pleas.
January 2014 — Vacation with the kids means no Facebook. On return, I got a sinking feeling logging back in. I started thinking of a customized FB home page where my work posts and groups appear first, and friend posts are suppressed. Maybe visa-vera? It sparked an idea to move away from personal content to a pro FB account.
February 2014 — I received nearly 100 Facebook Happy Birthday messages, and a dozen paper BDay cards in snailmail. I never read one of the FB messages and kept the paper ones in my dining room for a week. Meanwhile, my Facebook daily logins drop by nearly 50% as my work with The Mother Company ends. I felt a massive sigh of relief to be spending less time on the site.
March 2014 — I attended Spring Training (#GoGiants!) and changed my profile picture to one of me holding a beer at the ball field. For my 100 or so friends, it was hilarious since I barely drink beer at all. However, the next day I had four emails from non-Facebook friends about that picture. How? Because using Facebook Connect pulls in my picture data. Of course it does. Again, my personal and professional lives were colliding.
That was enough for me to put my plan into motion.
April 3, 2014 — I executed on my plan to free my personal life from my professional life on Facebook. I did four things: (1) I created a new Facebook account for myself to run and administer the Pages I use for work and work networking. Call it my corporate account. Yes, it kills my ability to have a large personal reach, but why would I rely on my personal network to promote clients anyway? (2) I downloaded a copy of all of my Facebook data. You can do it too, it’s easy. (3) I added myself to any groups I needed to be a part of as a corporate persona versus personal one. (4) I deleted the Facebook apps from all of my devices.
What is there to net from this?
I’m observing that personal social media and social media for business are very blurry lines for those of us who are entrenched in the space. How do we draw the line? Where do we draw the line? And how do we examine what social transparency really is? I’m not sure I can sell the idea of marketing a brand with transparency if I’m not willing to do it myself. Then again, maybe it’s because I know how effective Facebook marketing can be that I’ve removed myself from it. And where do we reel back in our lives to being private lives?
In reading back over posts spanning several years, Facebook has served as a personal journal for me — what my first company FamilyRoutes was meant to be. But unlike Facebook, a journal doesn’t give you feedback, or likes or comments. It doesn’t take what you post, churn the data and market you a product to fix it or cure it. It just is words on a page meant for you and your eyes only. Somewhere for me, it crossed the line. For goodness sake, two years ago I announced my separation from La Gringa on Facebook. Do we really need to live that transparently?
I’m not sure this experiment will work. My career relies on me understanding Facebook, it’s power and value. And I believe deeply in both. The challenge ahead of me is whether or not I can simply use Facebook as a vehicle for work, or if I’ll find renewed purpose for Facebook in my personal life.
October 2013 — Average Daily Facebook logins 35
February 2014 — Average Daily Facebook logins 18
April 2014 — Average Daily Facebook logins 1