April Fools day had always been such a kick. A little fun and whimsy to break up the late winter gloom. But now, today, it’s just another day. No fun and brightness, just more gloom. You see, today, April 1st, 2014 is the first day of the rest of our lives without Eat24 on Facebook.
Please. Just give me a minute.
Yes, you heard correctly. The favorite startup of spoiled urban foodies with too much discretionary income and not enough energy to get off the couch (think of Uber for gourmet chicken and waffles )– the one most of us never heard of until yesterday – has very publicly broken up with Facebook. In 1,312 snarky, self-referential words, Eat24 complained extensively about everything from Facebook’s changing algorithms to – horror of horrors! – its naked desire to make money. (What the letter lacks in brevity and precision it makes up for with inclusiveness and incomprehensibility: it includes a freakish LOL cat, a star wars reference and advice that Facebook needs to be more like the dormant 1996 website for the movie Spacejam.) Bottom line: as of midnight, Eat24 was shutting down its Facebook presence.
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Folks, this is the marketing story of the year! But not for the reasons you might think. The actual “dispute” about Facebook’s algorithms is a red herring. Yet news organizations from The New York Times to CNN to Business Insider rushed to report on this “event” as a harbinger and flashpoint for the coming marketer rebellion against Facebook. (Full disclosure: in 2012 Facebook was a client of mine, and I have both a personal account and a company Facebook presence. Further disclosure: I have my own issues with Facebook, but who doesn’t?)
Here’s the real story. Eat24 and many more “marketers” have simply been jobbing the Facebook system for years. They may fancy themselves some kind of content producer, but they are really just another parasitic startup nesting in the social environment Facebook has created from nothing. They claim that the ROI with Facebook just isn’t there anymore, which begs an interesting question: how can you complain about ROI when there was no “I” in the first place? So Facebook flipped the switch and Eat24 pulled the plug. End of story, right?
Oh no. Here’s why it’s the marketing story of the year. Eat24 found another system to job: the press. The business press just can’t resist a juicy “story” like this, especially when it feeds a pre-existing narrative (in this case, the twin narratives of “Facebook is arrogant and clueless” and “Facebook is the new Yahoo!”) As much as I want to hate Eat24 for its smug tone and superficiality (no one over age 12 should ever use the term “besties”) I must give them a tip of the hipster fedora. They played their hand beautifully. Their strategy ended up being native, viral and – based on the lockstep, uncritical response of the “business press” – virtually programmatic.
Happy April Fools Day. We’ve all been punked.