Facebook's Year from Hell: Why Celebrities & Brands Are Cutting Ties


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Change Is Happening

Throughout Facebook’s meteoric rise from 2006 college platform to global social network phenomenon, the social platform faced very few bumps along the road. In fact, the company’s growth to a $500 billion market cap was unlike anything financial analysts had ever seen before. It sure seemed like Facebook was that special company immune to the risks and difficulties that most large corporations faced.

And celebrities, influencers and brands all flocked to speak directly with their fan bases.  But with the trolls and fake accounts that were set up to be very divisive, that all changed after the 2016 presidential election. In this blog, Hollywood Branded discusses the PR implications of Facebooks year of hell of negative headlines, and well examine how some celebrities and brands have begun to cut ties with the social media giant.

facebook's year from hell

How the Slump Started

Facebook’s struggles started in late 2017 as the scope and breadth of Russia’s election interference campaign became clearer. Justice Department officials detailed how the Russians turned to Facebook to sow discord among the US electorate by creating Facebook groups, distributing divisive (paid) ads and posting incendiary images.

These headlines were compounded in March 2018 by news that Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm that worked for the Trump campaign, had collected data from over 50 million Facebook users without their consent through a personality app that allowed the firm to collect information on not just the users who filled out their survey, but also those users’ Facebook friends.


In the country’s current political environment, it didn’t take long for people’s outrage to bubble to the surface. A #DeleteFacebook hashtag campaign began surfacing on Twitter, and its influence wasn’t just limited to regular users.

Celebrities and brands took notice and some began doing exactly that: deleting their Facebook pages. Something that would have been unthinkable just a year prior, was now a harsh reality.

Celebrities and Brands Begin Cutting Ties

Let’s take a look at some of the first celebrities and brands who began deleting their Facebook profiles due to the data breach and privacy concerns:


The singer/actress was one of the first celebrities to announce they were deleting their personal Facebook account soon after news of the Russian political ads broke. She revealed that though it was an extremely difficult decision for her as Facebook helped with her charity, “I love my country. I believe there are things more important than money.” Now... she DID come back it appears, as there is an active account as of this posting, but it also appears most of those posts are for her role supporting Mamma Mia... so there could have been something contractual there with the studio.


Will Ferrell

After learning about the Cambridge Analytica news, the comedy star announced he would be deleting his page because of Facebook’s meek response to the data breach scandal. “I can no longer, in good conscience, use the services of a company that allowed the spread of propaganda and directly aimed it at those most vulnerable. I love my fans and hope to further interact with them through my comedy via the mediums of film and television.”



The adult magazine announced it was suspending its Facebook accounts due to concerns with the social network’s privacy and with sexual repression. The company’s official statement read: “For years, it has been difficult for Playboy to express our values on Facebook due to its strict content and policy guidelines. Playboy has always stood for personal freedom and the celebration of sex. Today we take another step in that ongoing fight.”

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Steve Wozniak 

The Apple co-founder deleted his Facebook page because of the careless way he claims Facebook treats its users’ private information. “Users provide every detail of their life to Facebook and… Facebook makes a lot of advertising money off this. The profits are all based on the user’s info, but the users get none of the profits back.”



The popular web browser briefly suspended its Facebook account due to the social platform’s inability to protect its users’ data. But Mozilla went a step further by introducing a Firefox browser extension called “Facebook Container” which lets Firefox users isolate their activity on Facebook to Facebook.com, making it more difficult to track users’ actions when they are elsewhere on the internet.

Mozilla’s statement read: “The pages you visit on the web can say a lot about you. They can infer where you live, the hobbies you have, and your political persuasion. There’s enormous value in tying this data to your social profile, and Facebook has a network of trackers on various websites. This code tracks you invisibly and it is often impossible to determine when this data is being shared.”

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Facebook’s Woes Continue

If Facebook was hoping that all this negative publicity would subside after some time had passed, that optimism has surely faded by now. The fact of the matter is that users’ data -- and brands’ ability to micro target advertisements using that data -- lies at the center of Facebook’s business model. That’s specifically why this data breach, and the loss of consumers trust that followed, is such a detriment to the social network’s future.

If users begin to demand more privacy for their data, or if brands lower their advertising spends due to a more stringent data measures, then all bets are off on whether Facebook can break out of its slump.  

Finally, the headlines have kept getting worse. On July 26th, its earnings report showed that the company missed expectations on revenues and showed slow user growth. The optics of weak leadership and guidance through a myriad of these controversies further rattled investors. Facebook’s stock crashed an astounding 20%, losing about $120 billion in market capitalization in just one day! This crash wiped out all of the company’s 2018 gains and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth dropped an estimated $16 billion in a single day after the stock tanked.


So What Does This Mean For Brands?

There are numerous social platforms that consumers use on a daily basis. And all have some level of data tracking within them - so we may be seeing changes along way in general with how social media exists.  And it means that things will get interesting as new platforms are created with better safeguards -- or Facebook continues to evolve to provide the protection users are seeking.  Which means brands are going to have some new challenges along the way learning new ways to best market to their fan bases - and how to continue to best use influencers to help. 

And be sure to read some of our team's blogs which will help you better utilize social media marketing:

Visit Learn.HollywoodBranded.com where our team has created a How-To learning platform for you to make an impact in your own business based on our agency's expertise in helping businesses market themselves.  The platform includes videos, transcripts, and quizzes to make sure you truly understand the materials and can take massive action today for your own business!

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