Unfriending on Facebook: A Marketing Guide

For me, unfriending someone on Facebook is a painful act. It means I cared and I believe that person didn’t. It has nothing to do with politics. But for a great number of Facebook users on Tuesday, “The Great Unfriending” happened when the political became personal.

Facebook unfriending
Source: Clay Jones, ClayToonz.com
Facebook unfriending – the struggle is real

For me, unfriending someone on Facebook is a painful act. It means I cared and I believe that person didn’t. It has nothing to do with politics. But for a great number of Facebook users on Tuesday, “The Great Unfriending” happened when the political became personal.

A friend of mine who voted for President-Elect Donald Trump lost 20 friends. One who voted for Hillary Clinton counted four. Both of them were hurt by it.

One man writing on the “Donald Trump For President 2016 – 2020!!!!!” Facebook page on Wednesday said he lost half of his friends since Tuesday.

Science shows the unfriended feel surprised, bothered, amused and sad.

Often, friends let each other know what’s about to happen — if they pay attention.

For instance, another friend is upset that her circle includes people who voted for the candidate she believes expressed a desire to violate her civil rights, and she’s taking the vote personally. She thinks anyone who voted for that person actually hates her. This may not be true, but she believes it.

So anecdotally, Tuesday was a big unfriending day.

The Great Facebook Unfriending of 2016
The Great Facebook Unfriending of 2016

Unfrienders Are Influencers

About 16 percent of unfriending Facebook users base the decision on political beliefs, a study profiled in PsyPost in December 2015 shows.

“The people most likely to unfriend are younger, more politically active, more active on Facebook, have lots of Facebook friends, and have more extreme political views,” Nicholas John of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem says to PsyPost. “These are important people in online discussions.”

In other words, unfrienders are influencers. Brands are employing influencers more and more, especially for brand endorsements and content marketing.

Facebook, though, had little to say to Target Marketing on Wednesday afternoon. We’d asked about unfriending numbers from Tuesday and Wednesday, as well as how profile changes would affect ad targeting.

“That’s not something we have numbers on,” says Andy Stone, with policy communications at Facebook.

How Changing Friend Pools Impact Marketers

If the Facebook user’s friends are mainly conservative, it may be more likely that he’s a NASCAR fan and brands can market to him accordingly, per a customer profile Target Marketing blogger Stephen H. Yu created.

Also following Yu’s logic, organic food producers should target liberals.

They are most often in the company of other liberals, as conservatives flock together, too.

Most consumers studied for their unfriending behavior kept aligning their friends list more and more with their own religious and political beliefs, preserving what a July 2016 article in Business Insider calls the “filter bubble.”

Likelihood of Becoming Friends Again

It’s better for Facebook users to have a large group of friends, online and offline, research shows.

Consumers who talk to family and friends on Facebook live longer. A longer amount of time to buy goods and services, right?

But relationships take work.

I have a cousin who regularly unfriends his siblings. He also regularly reconnects with them. The reason for it is unclear.

But it may be a lot like the cartoon atop this article.

Here’s what the author of the article originally accompanying the cartoon said on Wednesday:

“Come Wednesday morning, call your mom,” Clay Jones says. “Call your dad. Call your crazy uncle. Call your brother. Call your sister. Well … you might wanna give the sisters a few more extra days (in my case, years). Actually, if they supported Trump, they’re really not going to be in a good mood for a while, so you might wanna give them a month … or two … just forget it. They’ll call you. Then buy them a sandwich.”

[Update from Heather Fletcher: The paragraph above is a quote from an article I cited. Yes, I wrote this article on Wednesday and knew Trump won. I’m writing this update because I’ve heard from readers who think Trump backers are logically happy right now. I believe what that writer, Clay Jones, was talking about is that both parties are upset after unfriending.]

What do you think, marketers?

Please respond in the comments section below.

Author: Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.

8 thoughts on “Unfriending on Facebook: A Marketing Guide”

  1. Interesting article, Heather! Personally, I’ve never particularly thought much about deleting and being deleted from a friends list. (Actually, as rough as it may sound, I do most of my purging of my friends list on people’s birthdays! When I get the birthday notification, if I haven’t talked to someone in more than two years, they get the ax – it’s not like they get a notification!)

    Regardless, I think it’ll be interesting in the next two months to see how this election has influenced friend lists and, consequently, how marketers are faring as their audiences separate and make up.

  2. Thank you for using my persona example here! In the end, we need to hear from the “other” side, too. We shouldn’t just live in bubbles of comforts.

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