To hell with Facebook – I’m starting a newsletter instead
Just because everyone’s on there doesn’t mean your business needs to be too
Maybe it’ll come as no surprise, if you’ve been paying attention, that I don’t much like Facebook. For years, I’ve had a business presence there because I felt I had to—but no longer. Here’s why I’m closing down the Facebook pages for my business and setting up a new email newsletter instead.
These are my own views, and nothing to do with my clients, partners, or colleagues. I still help run other Facebook accounts elsewhere as part of my job, and that won’t change. This post relates only to Pinnacle Editorial. Furthermore, this isn’t necessarily advice on what you should do.
Until this week, I had two Facebook pages relating to my personal business:
Alex Roddie: words—mountains—imagination1
573 likes. It started out several years ago as a way of reaching new readers for my fiction, and as my writing evolved, so did the page. Today it’s all about my outdoor non-fiction. This page saw some interaction—and there are some incredibly engaged long-term readers on there—but never enough to justify spending more than about an hour a week on the page.
532 likes. I set this page up in 2014 for my editorial business, mainly because I thought I should, and took out a paid promotion that yielded a couple of hundred followers. Engagement has always been low on this page, partly because I saw no need to grow a huge audience for my editorial work—I can only work with so many clients, after all, and that number is not huge. I often neglected this page for weeks.
So we’re starting from a position of two small Facebook pages with limited reach, but it does no harm to keep them going, right? This was my attitude for years, until I started getting busier and began to pay more attention to where I invested my time. Suddenly my return on investment for Facebook didn’t look spectacular. I’ve always struggled with social media and distraction3. Could it be that I’d be better off investing that time back into writing and work with clients rather than fruitless social broadcasting?
Two options: double down in the hope that tangible benefits miraculously appear, or reconsider my strategy.
Just over a year ago, I came to the realisation that I no longer enjoyed using Facebook in a personal capacity. It was making me stressed out and anxious. I decided to take control of how I used the site with friends and family, and in February 2017 I succeeded in cutting my usage back to an hour or two a week.
I found withdrawing from Facebook immeasurably satisfying and valuable. This led me to question why I needed to have a professional platform there at all.
At the same time, I read more widely about the negative aspects of social media, how it’s designed to trap us and consume our attention, giving back scant scraps of value in return. I read about filter bubbles, fake news, and cognitive bias. I read The Shallows by Nicholas Carr and Deep Work by Cal Newport, two books that have helped guide many of my decisions in 2017.4
What did I actually want from Facebook?
- To connect with readers? Email is much better for that—the conversations are less frequent, occupying a fraction of my time, but far more meaningful.
- To find new readers? Not likely; the signal-to-noise ratio on Facebook has been abysmal for years, and although I have found some new readers on Facebook, I’ve found far more success in that direction on Twitter.
- To find new editorial clients? I make most new client contacts through good old-fashioned word of mouth. The rest are thanks to interaction on Twitter.
- To let people know when I publish new stuff? Thanks to the way Facebook works for business pages these days, unless I want to pay each and every time I write something I’d be better off yodelling from the rooftops.
So what, precisely, is the point of it?
Must I ‘have a presence’ on Facebook because it’s expected? To hell with that.
It’s a corporate platform whose main functions nowadays are to polarise society with filter bubbles, dumb down with clickbait and nonsense, devour attention on a scale never before seen in the history of the world, contribute to a new epidemic of stress and anxiety, and stifle the open web. At this point, any social benefit users may see from Facebook is a mere afterthought. People keep coming back because they’re being manipulated into doing so.
Why the hell should I participate in something as dystopian as this? It shouldn’t be this way.
The Pinnacle Newsletter
Fortunately my business does not need Facebook to thrive, but I do need some social presence. I’ll be focusing limited efforts on Twitter5. Meanwhile, I plan to repurpose much of the attention I used to spend on social networks—feeling vaguely productive while actually wasting time—in deep work that yields tangible benefits.
Some long-term readers used my Facebook page as a way to keep up to date with what I was publishing. Not everyone uses RSS (although it’s much better than social media for this purpose). So, I decided to go back to basics and create an email newsletter.
I love newsletters:
- A newsletter is something you’ve specifically chosen to receive;
- They usually arrive infrequently but regularly;
- Content is typically thoughtful, intelligent, and interesting or useful;
- You can read them whenever you like;
- Newsletter subscribers are often highly engaged;
- The contents of the newsletter aren’t jostling for attention in a news feed alongside vast amounts of algorithmically filtered information
My ideal clients are outdoor writers, so it’ll mainly be aimed at them: words and pictures to inform and inspire, passing on what I’ve learned, helping them develop their own skills. Maybe some will become clients.
It will also include a digest of my recently published material, both on this website and elsewhere.
I hope you’ll join me on the Pinnacle Newsletter. If, like me, you’ve come to find social media exhausting and frenetic, you may find the more laid-back vibe of a newsletter a pleasant change.
And from my point of view? I probably should have done this years ago. I’ve never heard of anyone who regrets creating a mailing list, but I’ve heard from a lot of people who are rejecting Facebook. I won’t look back.
- https://www.facebook.com/alexroddiewriter/ ↩
- https://www.facebook.com/pinnacleeditorial ↩
- In 2017, I spent a month away from social media, which was highly revealing. You can read about it here: http://www.alexroddie.com/2017/12/long-read-a-month-away-from-social-media.html ↩
- Cal Newport’s essay on why quitting social media is essential for anyone who needs to get deep work done was a major influence, but is just the tip of the iceberg. A huge amount of information and research has emerged over the last year alone—including prominent former Facebook engineers disowning their monstrous creation. ↩
- Hi. It’s worth emphasising that I’m gradually cutting back on Twitter too, but I find it far more useful, relevant and sane than Facebook. ↩