Facebook Bilks and Breaks Businesses It Begets
An Open Letter to the USA Congress
While public, media, and government attention was riveted by the emotional distress caused to teens and young women by Facebook subsidiary Instagram, most lost sight of the bigger crime committed:
“[M]illions of small businesses weren’t able to reach potential customers … around the world,” testified Frances Haugen (aka the “Whistle-blower”) on October 5th to a Senate Commerce subcommittee.
Facebook exacts a far greater toll on the myriad businesses that trust and follow the oversize social medium´s suggestions to bolster their businesses by creating and promoting “Pages” … with Facebook’s guidance, of course.
Pages are far more profitable for Facebook than users and user groups.
Follow the money, and you’ll easily see why …
Maintaining a presence on Facebook is a perceived marketing requisite for major brands and big businesses to build loyalty for these well-known names; but a Facebook Page for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and paperback writers boosts Facebook’s income with a continuous feed of revenue streams.
I don’t have thousands of pages of internal research and documents at my disposal to prove my point, but I do have extensive experience(s) to share—come-ons and addictive snake oil which have impacted countless businesses besides mine.
It starts by Facebook engaging you to create a Page for your business online. With Facebook, of course. While not every business can afford the costs of building and maintaining its own website, what better place to advertise than the largest online people portal of all? And Facebook promises to help you, every step of the way.
After all, Facebook knows who we are and targets us (specifically), even as it’s able to pinpoint precisely the people we want to reach.
I acquiesced to help launch Portugal Living Magazine.
Once you’ve completed its questionnaire with information Facebook can use in its enormous data base-driven marketing machine … and added some attractive graphics … you’re set up and ready to publish your Page.
Don’t forget that publishing implies distribution, as well as a product.
So, Facebook tells you to begin promoting your new Page by inviting all of your friends and acquaintances (on Facebook) to *Like* and *Follow* your Page, urging them to *Share* it with all of their Facebook contacts.
Not unlike a Ponzi scheme, as the number of people who like your Page grows, you’re drugged by that rush of adrenalin and anxiety … to attract more people, always more, to the product.
The question now becomes, what’s the product: your Page or Facebook?
It’s here that Facebook begins with its financial inducements, tagging you with a plethora of ways to promote your Page through Facebook advertising. You can spend money to *Boost* a popular post on your Page. You can spend money to convince new people—people you don’t know – to like your Page. You can spend money to make people click on an ad and be linked directly to your website, where they can conduct business with you. There are plenty of opportunities to pay the Facebook piper, over and again, especially since this online platform offers the most precise targeting to reach prospects in your preferred audience. Besides, you can augment your reach through Facebook subsidiaries—like Instagram!
Ultimately, I spent nearly $2,000 promoting my Page through Facebook’s daily $5 to $25 promotions for five to seven consecutive days.
It adds up quite quickly.
Like Citizens United, Facebook treats Pages (businesses) as it does people. Pages can join groups and post to these groups as the Page, not the person. Pages get their own, internal news feed based on the groups you’ve joined, other Pages you like, and any other entity Facebook thinks is appropriate. Moreover, Facebook will send you messages when it thinks there’s a post elsewhere on its platform that you should read. It will continue to suggest groups, media, and Pages to add to the favorites appearing on your looped news feed. And it makes it relatively simple to share a post from your Page’s news feed (which only you can see) with others who follow your Page.
Facebook has helped you survive through increased recognition (growth) and applause (reactions and comments to the posts on your Page).
Until, one day, it happens: Facebook’s algorithms turn against you, making it virtually impossible to use your Page. Those posts from others you’ve shared? You can’t anymore. Facebook times you out, no longer permitting you to share posts on your Page … or even to post directly on your own Page!
Click the “Share” button once too often, and you’ll get messages like this one when trying to share something on your Page: “Your message couldn’t be sent because it includes content that other people on Facebook have reported as abusive.” You’ve got to be kidding, right? Nope!
Try posting something directly—not by sharing but be entering it directly to your Page. It’s your own content you’re publishing … or trying to, at least. Now, you’ll get this kind of message courtesy of Facebook’s algorithms: “We limit how often you can post, comment or do other things in a given amount of time in order to help protect the community from spam. You can try again later. If you think this doesn’t go against our Community Standards, let us know.”
Try again later? Define “later,” please: An hour or two? A couple of days? A week? It’s been six weeks now and I’m still waiting … although I did try to let them know that, in no way, did my posts violate their community standards.
Have you ever tried to contact Facebook to let them know something’s wrong, not working, needs immediate attention? LOL! Their phone may be answered, after a fashion, but it’s not connected to anyone. Click on that hyperlink under “Let us know” (not even a “please” of common courtesy). Yeah, right. Whatever you send ends up somewhere in that black hole of cyberspace. Facebook doesn’t want to be bothered with our problems; instead, it has Forums for this, that, and the other thing.
But still no answers to my conundrum.
I did mention that I tried contacting Facebook through the Community Standards link included in its “You’ve been a bad boy” comment under whatever I tried to publish on my Page? (Eight times!)
Finally, I tried to outwit the system and its algorithms. I had been paying to promote my Page. There, in the Ad Center section, was a “Need Help?” button. Queued up, I awaited someone to appear on the chat screen. Finally, someone did. Felicia from Facebook Concierge Support.
I reviewed in agonizing detail – down to the screen shots – what I’d been experiencing (or not) on Facebook for the past six weeks.
“We greatly appreciate your patience while waiting for an update and for your cooperation on this case,” Felicia began. “We have received an update from our Internal Team and we would like to share with you the update below: We have limits in place to prevent abuse of our features and to protect people from spam and harassment. For example, if someone is sending out a lot of messages to people they aren’t friends with, they may be warned or temporarily blocked from sending messages. Limits are based on different factors, such as speed and quantity, but we can’t provide additional details on the rate limits that are enforced. Our team concluded that the issue should now be resolved from your end. If this is not correct or if you are not satisfied with the resolution provided, please feel free to reply to this email and I will get in touch with you as soon as possible.”
Immediately, I opened my errant Page and tried to post. Nothing … but those same messages contained in the screen shots above. I reread Felicia’s response. Her “Internal Team” must comprise even more algorithms. No information could be provided about the “rate limits” imposed and enforced. Yet, the “team” concluded that the issues should now be resolved from my end. Double entendre? Was she saying that Facebook had resolved my issues and I should no longer experience the problems? Or was the implication that it was up to me to find and fix the problems?
Certain that Felicia was a bot, artificial intelligence working for Facebook, I replied, nonetheless, to her email, saying that I continued to experience the same Page problems that I’d contacted Facebook about time and again.
Her response came within hours:
“Thank you for responding and sharing your concern with us. We can understand how important this can be for you. Please be informed that we are re-coordinating again with our support team and they are investigating on this case. Rest assured that necessary steps and follow up are done to emphasize the urgency of this case and as soon as we have an update, we will coordinate with you through this email thread. Until this case get resolved, we will keep this ticket number open and keep you updated.”
I no longer am certain that Felicia is a bot, artificial intelligence, or that her algorithms are appropriately aligned. “We are re-coordinating again?” The support team “are investigating on this case?” And one of the longest run-on sentences of Donald Trump double-speak?
This is whom I had entrusted with my Facebook future and livelihood?
Meanwhile, I noticed that my own personal posts on my personal profile’s feed no longer were receiving the usual reactions or responses that they’d cultivated since I joined Facebook. Whereas I typically received about a dozen or so emojis in reaction and at least several comments, now I’m not receiving any (of either). It’s as if the algorithms are teaming up to conspire against me personally, as well as my Page(s).
It’s already been almost two months since I’ve been locked away in Facebook prison, unable to add feed for my followers.
Without fresh, new, content, people stop visiting your Facebook Page. You’re old news, about which they no longer care.
Facebook’s nonchalant, devil-may-care attitude and irresponsibility — perhaps even malfeasance — have caused me and many others to suffer grave injustices. For some, like me, we have paid good money to Facebook only to receive damages and losses as a result.
We desperately need legislative reform of Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook.
Facebook is bigger and more powerful than most nations. It starts wars, takes sides, and spreads misinformation. In the process, it kills the very businesses that – once upon a time – it helped to establish.
Now, it’s the world’s biggest monopoly and money pit that’s stifled and absorbed any real competition. There’s nowhere else to go, nobody to listen, nothing but what Facebook allows to be told.
Facebook has outgrown its own britches and needs to be cut down to size.
Bruce Joffe is publisher and creative director of Portugal Living Magazine.