#Delete Facebook

Last week we deleted all of the Laidlaw Scholar Facebook Accounts. And I deleted my own. So far, all good.

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I have been thinking about deleting my account for ages. It is hard to be the CEO of a Foundation that invests in the Next Generation of leaders, has "Good" as one of its core Scholars' values and actively espouses moral leadership, to support an organisation that has presided over data hacks, misinformation, fraudulent reviews and election interference without doing anything about it. And yet I hesitated. Scared to leave where our clients are, sad to miss pictures and news from family and friends, worried about becoming out of touch. 

IISSMS, I have run highly successful marketing campaigns on Facebook. At Brunswick Group, we ran a Facebook campaign promoting our thought leadership at Davos which cost peanuts and brought in substantial new business opportunities. At WGSN we ran "shameless promotion" campaigns on Facebook which boosted our new business pipeline, user traffic and client LTV. It is fantastically easy to use. Get your targeting and messaging right and you can unquestionably change behaviour; that also made me hesitate.  As well as espousing moral leadership, I am borderline obsessed with marketing ROI. 

Watching The Great Hack, I flip-flopped between admiration for the precision targeting and fear/greed messaging deployed by Cambridge Analytica on Facebook - and horror for, well, exactly the same things. There is much to be admired in the professional ability to identify micro communities and understand their needs and motivations. There is nothing to be admired in the deliberate manipulation, through shameless misinformation and factual-misrepresentation, of people's beliefs and behaviour.  

It is also not a good look, to rail at Facebook's failings and then continue to boost their profits. The Guardian is a case in point. I understand the divide between commercial and editorial, but there are limits. As long as the Guardian is promoting content on Facebook, and driving traffic to it, it is adding to the profits of the platform of which it allegedly so vehemently disapproves. There is something so fabulously brazen about boasting that the breaking of the Cambridge Analytica scandal was a major driver in its return to profits, while continuing to advertise on Facebook, and allowing (encouraging? forcing?) its otherwise incredibly impressive Carole Cadwalladr to crowd fund for legal expenses and the funding to build a bigger team, that I can only hope no one has sat down to think about the brand implications of such blatant hypocrisy. I would hate to believe this is a conscious choice. 

Facebook only survives because it has users whose profiles it can sell. We decided to remove ours, and encouraged our scholars to delete theirs too.  This summer we launched a brand new community platform - the Laidlaw Scholars Network - to give Laidlaw Scholars and alumni an alternative social media space.  We used Zapnito. In two short months we built and deployed the expert network, gained more followers than we had ever had on Facebook and are enjoying richer, smarter, content contributions. 

Instead of going to where our scholars were we asked them to come to us. Happily, they did. They have come to a branded community platform, with a clear purpose, whose members share similar interests; where their data is safe; where they contribute, collaborate and, I hope, learn from and with each other to be better global citizens.

If you are still on Facebook, I would urge you to reconsider. Until, you, and your colleagues and your family all delete your profiles, Facebook has no incentive to do better. And they are absolutely smart enough to do so. They just need some more encouragement.

Susanna Kempe

CEO, Flying Trumpets

A digital, marketing leader with 20+ years experience in international B2B and media businesses, the last 15 of them at Board level. Susanna's digital experience includes being CEO of the iconic WGSN, growing its customer base and profits to historic highs. An American, German, Brit, she understands global markets completely, has worked all over the world and launched businesses in China, Japan and India. Her extensive M&A experience includes buying a whole portfolio of Performance Improvement businesses, data businesses and successful PE exits. Susanna is steeped in events experience. She began her career at IIR and was part of the management team that sold to Informa. There she was the CMO before moving to Emap Networks as CEO, transforming the events business and achieving record profits. She was also a NED of WTG and the interim CEO of Industry Dynamics. Most recently while the Global Partner for Content and Marketing at Brunswick Group, she implemented a new digital first strategy, GTM approach and corporate re-brand. Susanna now runs her own boutique consultancy helping CEOs and Boards position their personal brands and grow their company profits through content, marketing, innovation and digital.


Go to the profile of Jenefer Thoroughgood
Jenefer Thoroughgood 12 months ago

Great post Susanna. I deleted my Facebook account several months ago and only feel sorry I didn't do so earlier!

Go to the profile of Susanna Kempe
Susanna Kempe 12 months ago

Good for you - me too!

Go to the profile of Steve Thompson
Steve Thompson 12 months ago

Susanna I'm going to follow your advice, it's something I've been considering for a while and your post is the tipping point.

Go to the profile of Susanna Kempe
Susanna Kempe 12 months ago

Excellent - so pleased.

Go to the profile of Charles Thiede
Charles Thiede 12 months ago

Ok. So I’m off Facebook but use Insta and whatsapp daily. I know deep down the same issues apply because the parent owns both. Where to go from here?  

Go to the profile of Susanna Kempe
Susanna Kempe 12 months ago

Ditto re What's App. I think it is different in that they are not  selling advertising or sponsored content on it so in theory the misinformation and manipulation can't happen and they aren't making money from our usage. That said, I am aware that I am possibly rationalising my behaviour....

Go to the profile of Charles Thiede
Charles Thiede 12 months ago

Interestingly I do't mind the Instagram ads as they are sometimes relevant and interesting. Whatsapp. First sign of an ad I am out. It will just mean looking for an alternative. Facebook has a long way to go (as a company) to restore trust). Warren's threat of breaking up big tech does not solve this in my honest opinion. 

Go to the profile of Margaret McGary
Margaret McGary 11 months ago

I wish I could be that trusting of/optimistic about any platform owned by Facebook. I still use Instagram and WhatsApp grudgingly--as well as keep my FB account--because social media consulting is part of my business, but I figure it's only a matter of time until something comes to light about FB exploiting users in some way. I need to find a new career! lol/oy!

Go to the profile of Simon Burton
Simon Burton 12 months ago

I deleted my personal account years ago. Our business account is all gone now too after reading this and reflecting on how this platform fits with our values.

Go to the profile of Margaret McGary
Margaret McGary 11 months ago

Bravo to this--I barely use FB and would have deleted my account long ago if I didn't need it for client stuff (social media consulting is part of my business). 

I'm currently reading Christopher Wylie's book--he was one of the whistleblowers who worked with The Guardian to break the Cambridge Analytica story--and highly recommend it, as well as The Great Hack.

Go to the profile of Ashley Friedlein
Ashley Friedlein 11 months ago

I have an acount on FB but never use it. I've never been on Instagram and don't intend to. WhatsApp I use but obviously with Guild we're building an ad-free alternative for businesses to use. 

Something to be encouraged by is that Facebook use is declining. Instagram and WhatsApp (both owned by FB of course although most people don't know that) are growing. However younger people already see WhatsApp as for 'their parents' and tend now to be on Snap and TikTok. Neither of which FB own. So things do change quite quickly and FB-owned platforms are not necessarily set to stay dominant. (the alternatives are not necessarily any 'better' from a data/privacy point of view of course). 

Go to the profile of Susanna Kempe
Susanna Kempe 11 months ago

Yes, and to date it seems that "bad actors" have found it harder to use Instagram for behavioural manipulation. TikTok does indeed seem spectacularly lax and irresponsible. Wouldn't it be lovely if someone could come up with a consumer social media platform with integrity as you have done for business?