Life without Facebook
For a second, after seeing that subtitle, I wonder how many eyes could possibly burst from their sockets upon such a notion. It’s not an impossible feat, but probably one that many wouldn’t try or dare to entertain.
I’m hoping to do so, primarily with my official Facebook business page (or “fan page”, or whatever it’s actually called), and inevitably, my personal page. There’s something painfully mind-numbing about sitting down in front of my computer, going online, clicking onto a social media site several times a day to scroll through dozens of status updates, memes, poorly executed “selfies” and other drivel (that should not be shared) about several people who are supposed to be my friends, yet I would not know a thing about them if we were not “friends” through Facebook. When one takes the time to consider this for a moment, ask yourself whether this is truly such a bad thing. For a while, I fell into the trap myself (for the record, “for a while” means six and a half years). I would tell myself, “Oh, I’ll just spend 10 minutes,” and then do a double-take when 90 minutes had passed.
Over the Hill and through the Woods to…???
If reading all the personal status updates (about nothing in particular) and bypassing the videos featuring public figures, celebrities, or faux celebrities behaving obnoxiously were not enough to overwhelm my own mind, there was my Facebook business page for TIA International Photography that phenomenally possessed the same effect, but in the extreme opposite.
Imagine yourself preparing for a concert by one of your favorite artists at a venue that is supposed to be completely sold out. The only tickets available are those sold by seedy scalpers outside the arena. You’re expecting to see masses of people and fans of your favorite rock star. (My personal favorite is in the photo below).
You’re walking over the hill with sweet anticipation, knowing that on the other side, you’ll see the bright beams of lights crisscrossing, the exhilarating murmur of the crowds, and of course, the pulsating illumination of the city skyline along the horizon as the backdrop. (Those of you who know me very well should not be surprised that a city skyline has to be incorporated into this vision of exuberance somehow — I’ll use Vancouver for this illustration).
However, just as you make it over the hill, with that big smile on your face, waiting to embrace the joy, caress the happiness, and immerse yourself in all of its splendor, you see the reality. The city lights of the skyline are dim. They’re too far away to even be relevant. The arena itself is dark. There are no beaming lights. There is no crowd — well, not one consisting of people. The crowd and the murmuring are a well composed concierto of crickets, gnats, mosquitos, and grasshoppers.
That is what the atmosphere typically felt like, for me, when I visited my own business page on Facebook. I love most animals. I don’t care for gnats and mosquitos, but that’s beside the point. Crickets and grasshoppers can’t engage much on a Facebook site, even if Facebook could somehow convince them to hop onboard (literally) for a minute or two.
Please let me be clear about a few things. I love my true, genuine friends who have been with me through several chapters of my life — most of whom don’t post that much on Facebook themselves. I actually have real conversations in person, over the phone, via email, or Skype with my closest friends. No Facebook needed. (Those are three very beautiful words when read in a sentence. Say them three times in a row, slowly). I am merely generalizing my point to underscore the story I wish to share. One of my closest friends did away with Facebook for good over a year ago and never came back. He doesn’t know how envious I have been of his decision to go away and stay away. I do intend to follow suit shortly. I have had about enough of this rubbish.
Revelations of the Fraudulent Kind
So what really triggered all of this illustrative distaste against the world’s most frequently visited social media website, you might wonder? (Or you might not wonder, because you may be able to relate to what I’m talking about). I’m happy to debrief. My overall disdain for Facebook pertains to TIA’s business page, and that’s why I am closing its doors, for good, at the end of the year. In November and December, I will use that site to promote other photographers’ work, not my own.
TIA International Photography’s Facebook page has, as of this very moment while I write, a total of 18,486 subscribers. I don’t like calling them “fans” or “followers” for one reason or another. “Fans” online seem to have a very ephemeral connotation, as though TIA might be a fad or trendy chose du jour, while “followers” lend the notion that people are human automatons who cannot think for themselves. I would like to have more respect for the people who choose to like my business page and contribute to its success via their engagement.
But here is exactly where the problem lies — there has been little to no engagement whatsoever in the last two years from this large pool of subscribers equivalent to the population of several towns across the planet. Earlier this summer, I realized that less than 1% of the population ever truly engaged with TIA’s Facebook page, which included liking a photo, sharing a photo, or providing feedback or comments on a posting. This page was opened in March 2010, and even with less than 500 subscribers back then, I was always happy to see a comment or some evidence of activity from someone based in Paris, Bogotá, Cape Town, Hong Kong, or Adelaide. With nearly 40 times that number in 2014, one would think there would be interaction buzzing on this page from all corners of the earth. Not so.
Cue the crickets’ concierto again.
I posted content — mostly cityscapes, night-time, and long exposure images — probably five times a week on average. What I noticed, over time, is that the same people would respond. Let me be more specific — the same 50 people (or less) would respond. Within this sample, 30 of them were people who I actually knew in person — friends and colleagues. The remaining 20 were close contacts I had developed over the years through Flickr. That had been the trend for the last two years, unless I paid Facebook to advertise a posting, which became more and more frequent because I was starting to wonder what exactly had happened. How does the same 1% of the pool know you exist when you’re trying to provide information to the entire populace? It became a mystery worthy of resolution by those meddling kids and their mangy mutt, “Scooby Doo.”
Many of you are familiar with Copyblogger, the content marketing gurus in Colorado. TIA’s ensuing issues with Facebook were identical to Copyblogger’s. (Click here to learn about their debacle with Facebook). To really pinpoint TIA’s Facebook dilemma, I would highly recommend watching the video that Copyblogger highlighted in its article. To save you some time, I’ve posted the video below.
Breaking Up is Not so Hard to Do
Though I was tactful when I made the announcement of my departure on Facebook, I will use my official blog to be blunt and brutally honest. I am terribly disappointed with Facebook’s practices when it comes to advertising a business’ products or services. This social media behemoth has singlehandedly extorted large sums of money from many companies, including my own, under the guise of advertising to the markets that we always thought were being targeted. Their crafty way of providing this service to businesses and organizations is unethical and fraudulent. This has been a rather hard lesson to learn, but I have learned it, and am ecstatic to be done with Facebook once and for all. However, just to show that I can be melodramatic and compassionate about such a useful and advantageous breakup, I’ll let Madonna do some singing on my behalf.
I don’t see TIA’s departure from Facebook as a failure or as negative. In fact, I see it as the opposite. I see the chance to switch from using all those long hours of virtually begging for attention about my photography business to promoting my brand in a much more thoughtful, classy, and intelligent way. For example, TIA will now have an electronic newsletter in which you, the reader, can subscribe to know the latest about what TIA is up to in the world of cityscapes, night-time, and aerial photography, among other projects and special discounts. This medium is completely in my own format and I can control how my own material will be presented. The best part is that those who subscribe are very likely to be the people who are truly interested in TIA International Photography and can spread the word among their own peers and colleagues. In other words, my electronic newsletter will directly reach my specified market or niche. Facebook has never been able to do that, despite the 18,486 subscribers.
That number doesn’t mean anything, especially if you’re not getting ANY business at all from it. Basically, from a marketing perspective, Facebook has been an extremely counterproductive use of time and energy.
All that being said, nevertheless, two wonderful things came out of this page in its five-year run: 1) Starbucks Coffee Company invited me to make a presentation to their employees about night-time photography last year; and 2) I was able to help out a business student in a university who chose TIA as her case study regarding how a small company is operated. She later informed me that she received an “A” for her presentation. I am happy about both achievements, but I was hoping to accomplish more.
“I’m movin’ on up! You’re movin’ on out! Time to break free! Nothing can stop me!”
That’s it, really. As a professional photographer, I strive to do my utmost best to be exactly that — professional. Nevertheless, those of you have read my previous articles know TIA has been through some rough patches when it comes to running this business smoothly. The beauty of it is that I have learned from the several mistakes I’ve made in the past, and I never repeat them. Facebook was a big mistake, albeit unforeseen, but I would not have learned that if I did not launch a business page there. That’s not to say that it’s been bad for other photographers. There are a plethora of successful photographers in which Facebook has helped their brand through the roof, and that’s fantastic (especially if they never had to pay Facebook for advertising). At the same time, we may be photographers, but what we offer is not necessarily the same in terms of products and services, so I have stopped comparing TIA’s apples with SIA’s oranges and ABC’s asparagus.
Alas, a fresh break and a new start commences! I’m the type of individual who likes to see things through from start to finish. I always want to know how the story ends, even if the story itself is not that well portrayed to the reader or the plot is pathetically weak. I need to know what happens. This same philosophy also applies to every TIA project. There needs to be a start and an end. There are times, though, when one has to be honest and admit when a situation is going nowhere and may continue to remain as such for the foreseeable future. In cases like these, it’s up to the individual to insert a full stop, and terminate the project before he or she starts to reap diminishing and disastrous returns. This can be applied to most things in life — a bad relationship, a thankless job in which you find no value or joy (unless that joy is solely your bi-monthly paycheck), a poor investment, an undesirable cell phone plan, etc. Sometimes you have to opt out by force. There are certainly risks to aborting a bad situation in the short-term, but if the long-term benefits are worth the risks, then one owes it to herself to do it.
I forget who said the statement, but I find an infinite amount of truth and wisdom in it: “There’s a difference between giving up and knowing when you have had enough.”
When you know you’ve had enough, then it’s time to move on…