An Open Letter to Facebook

Dear Facebook,

As a marketer I normally am a big advocate of your platform. Not because I enjoyed being fleeced for advertising buys, not because I think your version of “Like” pages is truly what’s right for brand ambassadors, and certainly not because I appreciate CPC ads doubling during the holidays. No, I advocate for you because you’re really trying to help people connect and at the same time help marketers figure out the most cost effective way to understand their customers. For that, I applaud your growth, your reach and your tenacity.

However, our relationship has taken a serious down turn. I can get past the junior sales staff. Really, I can. They’re cool, and I’d love to share an Anchor Steam with them the next time I’m out in the Bay Area. Ultimately they’re being asked to tell me to buy ads, and while I can’t argue with the CPMs and performance of my ads, I think it’s just lazy. But I digress. Our relationship took a serious down turn about three weeks ago when you decided to stop even trying to innovate. Now, I’m not going to go on a rant about how you’re really not an innovator but a fast follower (see: Foursquare checkins, Twitter status updates, etc), but about how you abandoned your own markup language.

I was actually somewhat of a fan of FBML. It was simple. It worked. And beyond that it seemed fairly low maintenance. Even a former front end-turned moderately bad back end-guy could figure out how to perform simple tasks and create simple apps. And then “the” announcement came. Yes, you decided that it wasn’t cost effective to get into the markup language business — again, why innovate? — when you can just piggy back lazily on a technology that in the early 2000s was written off as being a poor way to construct a web site due to security issues. Yes, I’m talking about iframes, which are different from the 2059 product launched by Apple called iFrames, whereby you can load pleasant photos of nature into your home’s “window” (ironic, no?) in order to avoid seeing the post-apocalyptic views from your house. Again, I digress. It was sometime at the beginning of March that you sent this down from Mount Palo Alto:

ALL APPS MUST BE MADE USING IFRAMES.

And developers rejoiced, especially those who were outdated and didn’t bother learning FBML. But FBML, much like any other markup language, has legacy issues. And app companies left and right launched work-arounds for this. And those of us that saw value in FBML preached the word of the ZuckerLord that FBML would still work. And it does, in some cases. But a group of people moved on to iframes, and you celebrated this victory of getting out of the not-profitable markup language business. And then “it” happened.

“It”, for those wondering — and for those of us working with brands that’ve set up shop in Zuckerland — is the inevitable flaw that most developers can’t explain but those of us trying to maintain a brand’s image and perception COMPLETELY get. Your plan failed. You didn’t have a contingency plan, and your system went down. And tonight, as of 11:18 PM, for the third night in a row, it’s been spotty and in fact — down. It failed. And that, Facebook, is when you failed me as a marketer.

I know you’ve signed exclusivity deals with major brands and technology and VCs and others to provide you with funding and you sell our data. And I’m fine with most of it, except your systems and analytics are garbage.  Here I sit at 11:20 PM now, updating pages with my team, because your systems are terrible. All that money that’s been invested isn’t being used wisely, and you’re literally biting the hands that feed you. On top of that, your analytics are flat out terrible. They’re delayed for days, and for a “real time engagement system” I can get better analytics from Google (no offense to my friends in Mountainview) Analytics on the fly. Instead, I have to wait a few days to see what happened, which is super useful given the events of the past few days. You can’t preach conversation economy and then turn around and not deliver against it. And for those thinking “OMG It’s just a slight error. Big deal, it’ll resolve itself in the morning. People will forgive you.”

Yeah, no.

People don’t forgive. They get mad, they form communities and they revolt against companies. And instead of it being a “Screw Facebook!” page, it’s our clients they’re revolting against. And that’s where brands need to unite and either demand a more accountable system for Facebook ($300k+ for one day’s worth of ads targeted at ONE gender on Facebook) or pull our funds and go elsewhere. I’m happy to employ developers to build more websites instead of continually investing in a platform that is immature and underdeveloped.

The ball is in your court, folks. You can make the next move. I know where I’m making mine.

Sincerely,

David Binkowski

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