Podcasting has a Facebook problem. Well, truth be told, most industries, verticals, and even pastimes have Facebook problems. But this is a show about podcasting, so we’ll stay focused on the topic at hand.
We podcasters have come to rely quite heavily on Facebook. The podcaster-ran support groups on Facebook are clearly the most active source of information that's out there. If you have questions about podcasting, whether you're new at this or old hat, you’ll get dozens of responses to your questions from those groups.
Then there's the ability to quickly build a Facebook community for the listeners of your podcast. Some podcasts have Facebook communities that dwarf the size of their listening audience, racking up tens of thousands of members.
Live streaming has really taken off. In fact, the first 30 episodes of Podcast Pontifications were not only streamed live on Facebook, they were only available as that live Facebook video! (I’ve since rectified that and you can enjoy (?) all of the episodes in audio-only form.)
Facebook And Podcasting Are Often Tightly Coupled… For Now
We podcasters relegate a lot of what we do to Facebook. Many of the comment sections on our websites are powered by a plugin that uses Facebook. Others use Facebook for membership sites or granting access to private content. Facebook is deeply ingrained in the podcasting world. It's almost second nature because we can safely assume that because virtually every podcast listener has a Facebook profile, that ever podcast should have a Facebook presence, right?
So what happens when Facebook goes away?
I know that sounds very alarmist. But hen's the last time you updated your MySpace profile?
On a long enough time scale, everything disappears or changes into something unrecognizable from its origins.
Facebook Under Fire
Facebook isn’t immune. July 2020 is only nine days old as of this writing, and Facebook is taking a very public beating. It failed its own civil rights audit, a two-year endeavor where Facebook-selected independent auditors struggled to find good evidence that Facebook actually wants to fix the rot happening from within.
Representatives from the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, ad Color of Change met via conference call with Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and other top Facebook officials this week. Those reps left the call angrier than they were at the start, citing little in the way of substantive change and an abundance of oft-repeated platitudes from Facebook rather than actually responding to the group’s demands.
Along with those PR nightmares, Facebook’s taking a financial hit this month from the #StopHateForProfit campaign as several big-ticket advertisers have stopped their ad spend on Facebook for the month.
That last bit has less impact than you might imagine. Clearly Facebook (and their shareholders) doesn’t like seeing any revenue drop. But the majority of Facebook’s ad revenue doesn’t come from big, giant advertisers. Instead, Facebook makes most of its money from very small advertisers spending small amounts of money (like single-digit or double-digit dollars) on a monthly basis.
Perhaps your podcast is one of those small advertisers?
When Facebook’s Problems Become Your Podcasts’ Problems
Even if you haven’t spent any money on Facebook ads, you still need to consider how the world looks if Facebook’s ire-stoking activities continue unabated. Facebook’s brand is being tarnished. And that tarnishment will spill over to people - and podcasts -- who actively use Facebook. It’s only a matter of when.
That spill-over will happen in several predictable ways. A growing number of people will become less comfortable using Facebook on a regular basis. Like all free platforms, the users are the product. Continued exposure to manipulative content held up as “free speech” will result in more users using their own individual freedom to walk away and spend their discretionary time elsewhere.
Of more concern to the topic at hand is the spill-over that tarnishes the reputations of the companies and organizations that continue to rely on and actively promote the use of Facebook. A lot of podcasts and podcasters fit that bill.
In reality, I don't know what the blowback will look like or how severe it might be. But I don’t need the power of a quantum computer to predict that, at some point in time, the Facebook you know and love today will cease to be.
So, what do you do as a working podcaster to prepare for that eventuality?
Preparing Your Podcast For A Post-Facebook World
The steps are a little unclear to me, to be really honest with you. One option is to diversify. That's always a good idea. Never put your eggs in one basket. It’s why we podcasters distribute our shows to every single listening app, directory, or platform. Not just Apple Podcasts or Spotify. (Unless, of course, Spotify throws a bag of money at us for an exclusive deal. But that's a topic for another time.)
So yes, you should diversify your social media presence as a podcaster and for your podcast(s). And not just the old standards built in the 2005-2006 time frame. Spend some time getting to know some of the new up-and-coming social platforms.
I know some podcasts are trying to own the relationship with their listeners directly, reducing their reliance on social media platforms as the center of their community. I’m of two minds on this, mostly because “people gonna do what people gonna do” and it’s important for all podcasts and podcasters to meet people where the people are. You should not assume that people will switch to commenting on your website or other owned property just because you’ve made the decision to shut down your shows’ Facebook group. If you build it, they probably won’t come. Not without some significant work on your part.
One of my consulting clients is headed down that road. They have a very large and active community on Facebook and are in the process of moving it off Facebook to a new completely owned community inside of their own website. I'm not convinced it's going to work. I love the idea of moving as many people over as possible to a “fully-owned” community. And maybe as more people find their moral compass pointing away from Facebook, that might get easier. It’s just really hard right now.
But there is one thing you can do immediately: stop pushing people to Facebook.
Even if you have a thriving, active community on Facebook right now, you can keep it and you can stop pushing new people to it. That’s my approach. Even though my community is neither very large nor very active, I still push out episodes of Podcast Pontifications to Facebook. I’ll continue to occasionally share information on Facebook, but I do it via Buffer as I’m sharing that same content on other social platforms as well. To me, Facebook has become a little-to-no-effort publishing destination
But I'm certainly not asking anybody to join me over on Facebook. And if Facebook’s reputation continues to be torn to shreds, maybe you shouldn't either.
Speaking of things you shouldn’t do, you probably shouldn’t share this depressing look on a Facebook group! Though I’m sure some of you will. A much better option, if I may be so bold, would be to send an email to someone you know who’s also skeptical of Facebook’s future with a link to this article/episode attached. Or share it with your podcast team as a way to start the conversation of a better approach to social promotion of your podcast.
Finally, if you love what I'm doing with Podcast Pontifications Season Three, I would love for you to go to BuyMeACoffee.com/EvoTerra, and, you know, buy me a virtual coffee! Monthly memberships make it easy to buy me a virtual coffee every 30 days and is really, really nice.
For the new person reading this or those who’ve forgotten during my season break, I remind you that I take Fridays off. So I shall be back on Monday with yet another Podcast Pontifications.