As a purpose led business, I have been battling with our use of FB for well over a year now. Like many, I use WhatsApp and Instagram (personally) and Facebook (which is where we currently host the F&F community). But over time it would be hard to ignore the signs that these products are not what they used to be (from social sharing and community platforms to multi-billion dollar advertising giants with little to no moral compass), and as a business owner I have a responsibility to assess and act accordingly to prevent compromising the integrity of our business and of those who are associated with the brand.

My relationship with Facebook started when I was about 18, I had just left school and was about to embark on a new adventure, travelling and then university. At the time I was still using MySpace and Bebo, but the promise of being able to connect with all of my friends on this new shiny platform whilst sharing pictures, updates and interests was enough to get me excited. Classic Millennial! Especially given the fact I was about to move away from home for the first time, Facebook gave me comfort and closeness to those I loved most. I enjoyed the interactivity of the platform and the fact I could see what a friend or family member was doing on the other side of the world and connect in some way with them over their latest adventure or family news. Side note: does anyone remember the ‘poke’ button?!


The problem

Over time I think anyone reading this will agree with me, it’s become a bit of a beast and not a good one. From the mass data collection and privacy invasion by Cambridge Analytica; the accusations of Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election; unrestrained hate speech, inciting, among other things, genocide in Myanmar; the viral spread of misinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines. Add to that the recent scandal this year which came in the form of the employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen, who leaked internal documents that exposed some of the inner workings of Facebook and just how much the company knew about the harmful effects its platform was having on users and society. Also, although they say they have put these plans on hold, as a mum, the idea FB would consider launching ‘Instagram for kids‘ specifically to target under 16’s with the addictive algorithms poised to hook young minds all for FB long term gains, doesn’t sit right with me.

Our members have also expressed their concern when it comes to the platform and we’ve even had some women cancel their subscription because they don’t have a Facebook account or they simply don’t want to use it. This is enough for us to know, we need to make a change. We want to offer a fair opportunity for all women and non-binary people to access our community and as long as we are on FB, we are not creating the inclusive space we strive to offer each and every member.

 

Who wants to be bombarded with irrelevant weight loss or fertility ads while they’re trying to get in the zone of business, fundraise or take down the patriarchy?!

When it comes to our integrity, we do not want to host our community on a platform that incites such anger, fosters fraudulent behaviour and knowingly (and negatively!) impacts the mental health of its users without any efforts to rectify the situation. This behaviour goes against everything I believe in and everything the business is trying to achieve. Also, who wants to be bombarded with irrelevant weight loss or fertility ads while they’re trying to get in the zone of business, fundraise or take down the patriarchy?! We want to create a space where women feel safe, encouraged to share openly and inspired to learn from others. We want the space to feel inclusive, open, warm and welcoming and Facebook has made it very hard (impossible in fact!) for us to do this anymore.


The solution

As mentioned, I have spent the last year trialling multiple platforms, I hired a community expert to support me in the research of various platforms and have spent months testing and trailing them out.

From platforms such as Panion, Ugenie and Circle to Slack, Geneva and Disciple I have tried a huge range of community platforms as I went through the pros and cons of each one whilst bearing in mind what it is our community really needs out of a platform. The first thing is ease, the second simplicity. Before we even go into the details of what features our members wanted, it was essential that whatever platform we chose, it was simple and easy to navigate around and wasn’t going to overwhelm our members. This was incredibly important to me as I want our community platform to enrich the experience of being a Found & Flourish member, not overwhelm or overcomplicate it, because let’s face it, running a business can be overwhelming enough as it is!

Disclosure: Not all our members are happy with the idea of moving away from Facebook. We have carried out polls and sent out various surveys over the last six months but I am pleased to say the majority have said they’d be open to trying a new platform. The more conversations I have, the more I realise that most people want to engage in an environment that feels safe and private and isn’t financing an ethically compromised multi-billion pound advertising tech giant disguised as a community and media platform. When values are misaligned (in life and business!), there is a limit to how much you can develop and grow, there will always be an element of being ‘held back’ unless something changes and we believe now is the time for change.

After speaking to various members, women in the community and friends who run other communities we have chosen to migrate to Circle. Circle is a community platform which recently raised $24.7M to develop their offering. They’re a community centric platform, designed with the end user in mind. It’s intuitive to use, easy to navigate and improving all the time. And because you have to pay to host a community on the platform, it’s safe from eye sores such as online advertising. I’ve only ever had a positive experience using this platform and have met some amazing people on it.

We also feel that having a community platform that is separate from your personal social media accounts helps you to feel more purposeful and productive when interacting with other members (read: puts a stop to the scroll hole we can often find ourselves in when logging on to FB!)


Why we love Circle:

  • It’s closed and private (safe!)
  • It’s away from the distractions of social media
  • It’s easy to navigate
  • They have a fantastic search function for members
  • You can DM fellow members within the platform
  • You can ask questions and comment on various posts/platform updates
  • You can create groups and only add yourself to the ones that are relevant to you and your interests
  • Lots of other communities are migrating to Circle making it a popular choice for F&F
  • It’s not Facebook
 

What about Instagram and Whatsapp? I hear you ask! Well I believe in one step at a time and right now the community in which we host our paying members is our No.1 priority. Once we have on-boarded our members and we know they are settled into our new platform, then we can look at ways we can move away from the business “Meta” in its entirety.

 

What next?

Now begins the task of migrating our existing members. I am working closely with our community expert and manager Serena Gasparini on this one, making sure everyone feels confident when using the platform and knows exactly how to get the most out of it. It will be a slow and steady process as we introduce some of our most popular features first (Coffee Roulette & Buddy Up) which you will be able to sign up to via the Circle app. From there we hope as our members become familiar with the platform they will feel confident using it as their go-to learning resource and community platform for all things business.

Our mission is to close the opportunity gap for entrepreneurs and make all aspects of business accessible and less lonely for women blazing a trail in the start-up space so that they feel empowered to create and grow incredible businesses. We believe Circle is the best app to support us in doing this and we can not wait to see how our members flourish on our new community platform in 2022.

 

Have you had similar thoughts about Facebook? Are you considering moving away? Perhaps you already have? Let me know your thoughts and if you have any questions in the comments below.

 

Here’s to a brighter 2022, filled with integrity, focus and joy.

Lara Sheldrake

Lara Sheldrake

About your author

Lara Sheldrake is a business mentor, consultant and Founder at Found & Flourish. Lara writes and speaks on the topics of entrepreneurship, motherhood and social media for business. She also co-hosts the Bossing It podcast, aimed at empowering the next generation of female founders in the UK.

 

Send Lara an email. You can also find her on LinkedIn @Lara_Sheldrake or Twitter @Lara_Sheldrake.

 

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