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The wave of brands pausing or abandoning Facebook advertising is growing.

Unilever, Coca-Cola, Hershey, Verizon and Starbucks are just a few of the massive enterprises that have boycotted Facebook, after years of the company providing a platform for lies and hate speech. Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest advertiser, may be next.

So, whether you believe it’s the job of social media companies like Facebook to police content or not, the bottom line is that major players in the market, against a backdrop of social unrest and the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, is finally applying financial pressure to Facebook by walking away.

We are not neutral on this topic. For years we’ve been suspicious of the actual reach and return of advertising on Facebook, and even more strident about the way it has enabled distribution of child sexual abuse content and has exploited the personal data of its users. We have long believed that brands would eventually abandon Facebook given its business practices.

We support the boycott.

But is it just a moment or a trend?

Unfortunately, the current system isn’t built to offer advertising solutions that don’t involve Facebook.

Not everybody is on Facebook, of course, as millennials and Gen Z gravitate to platforms like TikTok and Instagram and leave Facebook to the oldsters.

But, of course, Instagram (and WhatsApp) are Facebook acquisitions. They are, ethically and technologically, largely indistinguishable platforms.

And advertisers, whatever their recent ethical awakenings, are still beholden to the platforms where their consumers hang out. And that’s still Facebook, which has over one billion users globally.

So then, many brands now find themselves in a tough spot. Maybe they can join a near-term boycott that covers the run-up to the 2020 U.S. election, but beyond that, don’t they have to again deploy their spending to Facebook and Instagram? Or is there another option?

What if there was another way to reach your consumers?

Here’s a question we’ve been asking for years: 

“… If you reinvested the time, energy and effort you have put into Facebook, or any other social-channel-come-lately, into your own brand platform, what could you build with your consumers then?”

There are still ways to connect with consumers on social media that don’t involve placing a bet on the ethics of a Mark Zuckerberg-led company.

Brand communities, built on technology that gives you and your fans control over and comfort with data privacy, are one of the most effective ways to connect and partner with consumers in the digital space.

You don’t need Facebook. Your brand can be your platform. After all, that’s what your consumers care about, right? Your brand.

And unlike Facebook or any other intermediary tech company, with a brand-sponsored community, you actually have control over the way data is used. You can connect directly with your consumers to gather key insights, create proprietary ideas and embed your consumers directly into your business.

We wrote this at the beginning of the COVID crisis:

“If we’re all collectively reassessing what matters most and this global shock reverberates through the next decade, it stands to reason that the brands with authentic missions and purposes will appeal most to consumers. It will require those brands to articulate and then abide by their principles. This seems inevitable now but even pre-crisis, there was a growing collective hunger for more meaningful connections that was starting to play out across industries.

And, correspondingly, in this new world that awaits us, brands that regularly greenwash, cause-wash and otherwise prove themselves to be inauthentic, will be punished by consumer contempt. Bad actors will be jeered off the stage.”

We are at what looks more and more like a historical inflection point.

The way consumers – people in general – are assessing everything, including marketing and YOUR brand, has changed in the last four months.

And now you have a choice.

Keep pushing out paid media and ads on Facebook or do something new with that spend that sets your brand up for the world that’s coming.

For the world that may already be here.

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