If you work at a nonprofit, chances are, social media drains you. Social media drains pretty much everyone these days. It drains you of energy, time, attention, and, for nonprofits, precious financial resources.
As my Executive Director likes to say, “any nonprofit is always six months away from oblivion.” My meager three years of experience in the space agrees with this maxim — the end is always in sight, the work is never finished, and everyone on Facebook needs to know about it if your organization is to survive. At least, that’s the message that Mark Zuckerberg wants you to hear.
Despite the rosey picture the media has painted of Facebook ads in the past, news continues to pile up that illustrates just how bleak the future of digital advertising has become. Here are three reasons your Facebook ad money is better spent elsewhere.
- Facebook has asked users’ banks to share all your personal financial information
All throughout 2018 I pondered deleting my Facebook account. The news there felt stale or outrate fake, most conversations were people saying things they’d never say in person, and I was bothered because I was addicted for reasons I couldn’t explain. The Cambridge Analytica Scandal of 2016, the scope of which we still don’t fully comprehend, had convinced me it was time to start thinking about deletion, but I still couldn’t pull the trigger. That all changed in August of 2018 when I saw a headline in the Wall Street Journal:
Facebook to Banks: Give Us Your Data, We’ll Give You Our Users
Facebook has asked large U.S. banks to share detailed financial information about customers as it seeks to boost user engagement
The article, which is conveniently behind a paywall (similar article here), goes on to say that Facebook is after your account balances, card transactions, banking alerts, etc. For me, a personal user, this was the last straw. I immediately deleted my account. But what implications does this policy (that hasn’t been discussed in mainstream media since August of 2018) have for nonprofits? Could your organization’s detailed financial information already be in Facebook’s hands? And at what cost?
Facebook Executive Elisabeth Diana, head of global corporate communications for Facebook was quoted in the Wall Street Journal, supposedly to allay these fears, saying “We don’t use purchase data from banks or credit card companies for ads. We also don’t have special relationships, partnerships, or contracts with banks or credit card companies to use their customers’ purchase data for ads.” But is this likely to remain the truth? Hardly.
Reason two your nonprofit should stop using FB ads:
- Facebook shares your personal data with third parties whether you allow them to or not
We in the nonprofit world rely on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to internally keep up with all the donor and volunteer data that comes through our digital doors. This data defines our organization via specific demographics: gender, age, political leaning, financial status, and preferred charities. This information helps nonprofits target likely donors and volunteers, and it is Facebook’s lifeblood.
If you’ve ever run an ad campaign on Facebook, you know that all of your target audience data is required for the system to return optimal results. From the perspective of a nonprofit, why wouldn’t you use your CRM data to better inform your Facebook ad audience? You need returns on your digital advertising investment, so you provide as much information on your constituents as possible. In a digital age, it is easy to rationalize that much of this data is already available on the web, and social media giants like Facebook have privacy policies to protect your organization’s data against sharing. But Facebook doesn’t keep its word.
While users are assured that all data inputted won’t be shared with third-parties without consent, Facebook has an abysmal track record of deception. Data sharing scandals surfaced as recently as March of 2018 showing Facebook not only shared your personal data (including contact information such as phone number, email address, and physical address) with tech giants such as Yahoo, Amazon, and Microsoft, but also allowed Netflix and Spotify to access all of your private messages. The New York times briefly reported on this blatant policy contradiction in December.
So what if you don’t care that Facebook is after your organization’s banking info? What if your constituents don’t mind that their data was shared with third party companies without their consent? You should still quit Facebook ads. Facebook is, perhaps, committing the largest scale fraud in marketing history. How?
- Facebook’s Monthly Active User count is conflated by as much as 50+%
In the fourth quarter of 2018, Facebook reported that its platform sees 2.32 billion Monthly Active Users (MAUs). From an advertiser’s perspective, the value of advertising on Facebook seems to be immediately apparent. If Facebook actually does have 2.32 billion unique individuals using their platform, and they can tell you which people you need to target based on the data they collect, virtually any ad price range is reasonable. This prevailing sentiment is what makes Facebook so valuable — so valuable that the company brought in $40 billion in 2017. But there is a major problem — Facebook doesn’t actually know how many of their accounts are fake.
At the beginning of this year, Facebook publically estimated that 36% of all MAU accounts are fake. This number alone should be staggering — Facebook charges their advertisers based upon the fact that there are 2.32 billion unique users ready to click on a targeted ad. Any physical company that sold 36% fake products would be sued to oblivion immediately; yet, there seems to be very little outrage over the self-admitted fraud Facebook is committing.
“You can use your judgment,” said Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research who discovered last year that Facebook was claiming it could reach more people in the United States than the Census Bureau said lived in the country. “I think there are reasons to be skeptical of the numbers they put forward.”
Even more outrageous than these findings are the facts, statistics, and early conversations outlined in a report by a former Harvard classmate of Zuckerberg, Aaron Greenspan, who predicted the Cambridge Analytica Scandal of 2016, and tracked Facebook’s scandalous (and often illegal) climb to prominence. Greenspan posits Facebook’s MAU count could be conflated by as much as 50%.
As we continue the laborious work of keeping our nonprofit’s doors open, serving our constituents, and making the world a better place, we should all stop giving money to fraudsters and conmen such as are found at Facebook. There are far better things on which you can spend your budget, such as improving your internal data protection policies. Stop paying for worthless advertising, and start proactively protecting yourself and your constituents. We can’t afford to do otherwise.