The other day I learned a sister organisation was thinking of closing down their website and moving to Facebook. This troubled me so much I decided to butt in uninvited and explain why they should rethink. Then I thought that what I wrote to them perhaps could benefit others.
I've edited this slightly, used
example.com as a placeholder for their domain name, and removed some portions that aren't very relevant to others. Feedback is welcome.
I hope this may be useful to someone.
It sounds as though you're going to stop having a website of your own and instead switch to using Facebook for communicating with your community.
If that's the case I'd very strongly urge you to reconsider and I'll outline my reasons below. I'll also outline my credentials below so you can see why my opinion might carry some weight.
As a brief introduction though, I run the website and mailing list for the Waikawa Beach Ratepayers Association and have some 30 years experience working with community organisations and the Internet.
If there are problems with money or expertise that lead you to think of abandoning your website then we can find ways to deal with that.
Reasons to keep your website (and domain name)
- A website is totally under your control. You can organise it as you wish, make information available how and when you wish, and build up a store of knowledge, information and reference material over time. The issue of control is huge. It may just be a single point, out of several, but its importance is enormous.
- You can associate your own website with your domain name, example.com. This is yours. It adds to your identity as an organisation. It connects your information to your place, your location.
- Because you have control over the website, visitors can easily find the information they want. You can also change how it's organised whenever you wish, perhaps to make something easier to find, temporarily or permanently. If you want to, you can easily delete or change information.
- You can, if you like, make it possible to receive website updates automatically, depending on the systems you use. With the WBRA website, for example, visitors can receive new items by email or via an RSS feed. Your website could also automatically send new items automatically to Twitter or Facebook or other services. You choose.
- Your information stays in one place over time — at your domain name. If the company hosting your website changes something in a way that doesn't suit then you can pick up the website's files and move to a different company.
- You can select your audience for your whole website, or for parts of it. For example, you want to make one part only available to a specific group, such as the Committee, then you can do that.
- You control how your information is managed and presented. If you wish, you could put ads on the website, for specific businesses or organisations. Or have no ads at all of any kind. It's your choice. Within the Terms and Conditions of your web hosting company (and NZ law), you can put whatever you like on your website. If you don't like the host company's Terms and Conditions, then you can move the website.
Reasons not to rely solely on Facebook
- The key point about Facebook is that it's a profit hungry business. It's not allowing groups to put their information online free of charge out of some altruistic public-good feeling. Its sole aim is to make money and it's using anything and everything it can discover about every single user to do so.
- When you put your organisation's information on Facebook then you have no control over how that information is used and how it's arranged. Your information becomes harder to reliably find. Facebook uses its own algorithms to decide who sees information, rather than just showing everything reliably to everyone.
- Facebook controls how your information is displayed and what advertising or information from other sources is displayed alongside your information. It can put items you may find objectionable right next to your items and you have no control over that.
- Your information is hidden behind a Facebook address — a link to it starts with
example.com. It has been disconnected from you and is now just part of the amorphous chaos that is Facebook.
- Over time your information just sinks into oblivion.
- You're selling out your visitors. They may be obliged to sign up with Facebook in order to see your information and increasingly people do not want to do that. And for those who are willing, every visit they make, every item they look at is simply more data points for Facebook's algorithms to sell information. Facebook don't just make money by selling advertising; they make money by selling data about their visitors to companies who make use of that data often in ways very harmful to the people whose data they've bought.
- Facebook routinely does obnoxious things while saying it isn't, promises privacy while stealing data, allows data breaches and then understates their severity. In short, it is in no way trustworthy.
A good way to use Facebook
Make your website your
home. Put all your information on your own website, first and foremost. Put notices on Facebook and include the address to find that information on your own website. Now people have a choice: if they enjoy using Facebook then they'll see your post (probably / possibly) and can visit your website if they choose. Those who aren't on Facebook can freely access the information from your website.
If you wish, use other services, such as Twitter, the same way.
Miraz Jordan Credentials
Since about 1990 I've worked with community organisations around their use of and presence on the Internet. I made my first web page in about 1992 and have created and maintained many many websites since then.
For a decade I worked for Communitynet Aotearoa, under the Department of Internal Affairs. Its purpose was to help community organisations.
On behalf of the NZ Webguide Partnership I wrote the book Connect your Community, which was for community organisations about making websites.
I have decades of experience working with the Internet and helping individuals and community organisations to use the Internet and websites.
I am currently a committee member of the Waikawa Beach Ratepayers Association, look after our website, run our mailing list and feed items of interest to Facebook and Twitter. I also run my own personal Waikawa Beach website at lovewaikawabeach.nz .
Links to articles about Facebook
These recent articles are just a few of the many about Facebook that people should be aware of:
- Zuckerberg Says 'The Future Is Private', But That Doesn't Mean What We Think.
- If Facebook Wants Our Trust, Mark Zuckerberg Must Resign.
- Health apps come with warnings after private data given to Facebook.
Cheri reminded me about this:
An additional point is that anyone who chooses not to use Facebook becomes excluded entirely! They cannot access vital information, and therefore cannot participate. Some, like abuse victims, may need to avoid Facebook to remain safe from discovery.