Should We All Quit Facebook? Not Yet (IMHO)

 
Don't quit, Mike!
Image by SuziJane via Flickr

Last week, the brilliant Josh Hermsmeyer at Capozzi Winery (also known as @PinotBlogger) posted a controversial post entitled: Why I Quit Facebook, And Why Wineries Should As Well – it is well worth a read.

Josh manages to combine a great marketing mind with a brilliant passion for making wine, great technical knowledge and an ability to communicate (yes, a bit of a hero to me). It is just a shame that I may never get a chance to taste his wines. However, his posts are always worth reading.

Having said that, I disagree with him on this one.

The conclusion of his post is summed up as:

Bottom line: Even if you never plan to advertise or otherwise leverage Facebook’s “social graph,” You do not want your brand tainted, even by association, by the sh*tstorm that is engulfing Facebook.

His argument is that the kinds of activities that Facebook has been accused of entering into should not be condoned, and that if you are a winery (or any business) on Facebook, you will be tainted by it by association:

… there can be no doubt that the risks of maintaining a presence on, and thus providing a tacit endorsement of, Facebook far outweigh any benefits you can possibly think to imagine. Act accordingly.

You can read his report and plenty other reports out there about what Facebook is accused of doing, but essentially it seems to be about breach of trust. In his view, that breach is so serious that he simply cannot be part of the network. That is his decision. It is also the conclusion of many other influential individuals such as Jason Calacanis and many thousands of others.

I respect Josh’s principled stand. In the comments he says:

Even if you are using Facebook just to have a conversation where your customers are, you are tacitly endorsing the medium. I can’t do that any longer. I owe the peeps more than just looking out for my brand’s interests.

My actions are communicating to them louder than any wall post what I value, what Capozzi values, and where we draw the line in terms of where commerce ends and a trusting, worthwhile relationship begins.

Wineries who are on Facebook may well be there simply to engage with their customers around the world. This is still one of the best places to do that, even if I do recommend that this is just a means of taking that relationship elsewhere (like a winery’s own blog).

Essentially, I don’t believe that having a business presence on Facebook “tacitly endorses” whatever may or may not be going on behind the scenes between Facebook and their advertisers with our data any more than running a local wine shop “endorses” dubious commercial property deals by banks.

Wineries NEED to communicate with their customers, and if the customers are on Facebook and are willing and eager to engage there, then wineries will have a presence there. IF there are privacy concerns, there is no “ethical duty” to disengage with the network. It is not the business’ or brands’ role to make decisions for their customers about these things. As long as they are part of the network they can & should lobby for things to change and do their best to communicate this to their friends and customers.

“The REAL issue is that this is a closed network that is trying to justify, and monetise, itself …”

As I write this I hear that new privacy arrangements are being made by Facebook. I’m dubious that this will quell the discontent fully.

The REAL issue is that this is a closed network that is trying to justify, and monetise, itself by getting bigger and offering even more options to everyone. I don’t believe it can do this without getting too complex. It is getting so big that the revenues it needs to achieve become astronomical, encouraging “extreme” behaviour. We need to keep an eye out and complain, but not necessarily run away.

There is a precent for this. AOL grew exponentially by educating millions of us about the internet. However, eventually we grew tired of the walled playground and we left it for the more exciting WWW. Facebook introduced many individuals and businesses to the Social Web. The time will come when many of them will cut the apron strings and venture off into the wider social world. But not yet.

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Please read Josh’s full post AND the comments. This is a wonderful example of what kind of conversation a blog can create. This is Josh’s topic, but anyone can respond, disagree or agree, and he engages with all of them to clarify and refine the message.

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