Kensington Apothecary Takes A Stand Against Facebook And Logs Off The Social Media Network
Troubled by its practices, founder Claudia Carey Batz has removed the natural beauty brands from the world’s largest social media platform where they together had amassed around 30,000 followers. She joins a #DeleteFacebook movement that’s surged in the wake of the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis firm accused of illegally mining more than 50 million Facebook user profiles for political purposes.
“I have seen firsthand how Facebook is willing to sell access to its customer base, and I feel I have an ethical responsibility to our fans,” says Batz. “What will this do to my company? I have no idea, and it is terrifying.”
Valentina’s Naturals and Kensington Apothecary have depended on Facebook as their primary marketing vehicle since their arrivals on social media network in 2010 and 2012, respectively. Batz estimates the brands have spent $30,000 to $40,000 on Facebook advertising in the subsequent years to attract customers.
“As we grew, Facebook would reach out with offers of more targeted and effective marketing campaigns they could help us design and dial in for maximum impact using more intimate Facebook user data. It felt a bit icky. That was when I began to question Facebook,” says Batz. “But we’d spent all this money to build an audience there and, more than the money, we’d invested so much time and passion. It was unthinkable to walk away from it.”
The Cambridge Analytica controversy and the icky sensation that arose in Batz as a result of Facebook’s marketing tactics weren’t the main reasons she decided to take her brands off its website. Instead, she singled out the presidential election of 2016 as the tipping point. Facebook has acknowledged Russian agents promoted political rallies via its platform as part of disinformation efforts tied to the election. It’s also been blamed for reinforcing divisions within the United States by strengthening political echo chambers.
“With the recent election, I feel a bit like someone who witnessed a crime and didn’t speak up and, now, my silence has back to haunt me and hurt my family. Except it isn’t my family, it is the whole country,” says Batz. “I think Facebook has done real harm to the democratic process. I think it has robbed us of the last shreds of civil discourse [and] of friendships with people who are across the political aisle from us. It made it easier to hate.”
Taking a stand against Facebook could have business consequences for Kensington Apothecary and Valentina’s Naturals, although Batz is uncertain how impactful those consequences will be. The brands are found in about 1,000 stores nationwide, including Whole Foods and other natural grocery chains. While the brands will no longer be on Facebook, they’ll still be present on Facebook-owned Instagram. Batz notes Kensington Apothecary and Valentina’s Naturals don’t advertise on Instagram, and rely on it primarily as a visual storytelling tool.
“It was always tough to gauge how much of an impact Facebook had on our sales. It was rare to see a direct impact. It was more of an awareness driver,” says Batz. She adds she’s exited the platform personally as well as professionally, detailing she’s erasing “literally a decade of my family’s life, my kids being born and growing up, starting my business and watching it blossom. This has been the most amazing past ten years, and I am deleting it post by post. To say it hurts is an understatement.”
As Kensington Apothecary and Valentina’s Naturals begin their post-Facebook existences, Batz has a message for the brands’ followers. She imparts, “Thank you for taking part in this great social media adventure with us over the past few years. It has in many ways given me a public voice, allowed a small company like mine to thrive, and allowed me to put many good people to work. Now, maybe it’s time for us to all log off, call up a few of our real-world friends, and go grab a cup of coffee.”