Skip to main content

Food app, Facebook 'break up' over promoted posts

Doug Gross, CNN
Eat24 has more than 70,000
Eat24 has more than 70,000 "likes" on Facebook, but the food app says it's leaving the social network.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Eat24 website is "breaking up" with Facebook, which is firing back
  • Food-delivery site says Facebook's algorithm minimizes its posts
  • Facebook rep: Users want to see more important content
  • Facebook has encouraged businesses to pay for advertising

(CNN) -- A food-delivery website is parting ways with Facebook in a snarky "breakup" letter. And Facebook, like spurned lovers through the ages, is telling the cheeky startup not to let the door hit it on the way out.

Eat24, based in San Bruno, California, lets users enter their address to find restaurants that will deliver to them. They then select a restaurant and order online.

The site has more than 70,000 "likes" on Facebook. But last week, it announced it just wasn't that into the social media giant anymore.

"Dear Facebook, Hey. It's Eat24. Look, we need to talk," read a post on the Eat24 blog. "This isn't easy to say since we've been together so long, but we need to break up. We'd love to say 'It's not you, it's us' but it's totally you. Not to be rude, but you aren't the smart, funny social network we fell in love with several years back. You've changed. A lot."

The problem? Eat24 says Facebook's algorithm that decides which posts users see in their feeds is unfair and rewards page owners who pay to have their posts promoted.

"It makes us think all you care about is money," the letter reads. "Why should we have to wade through a dozen promoted posts about how to lose belly fat (are you trying to tell us something?) and requests for Candy Crush (NO! Just no.) and suggesting we like our arch nemesis' page (seriously, WTF) before we can finally find the perfect Doge meme? It really seems like you've lost your way and have become nothing more than an ad platform."

The letter says Eat24 will delete its page at midnight Monday.

In an uncharacteristically direct response, Brandon McCormick, Facebook's communications director, replied to the post in which the company shared the letter -- perhaps ironically -- on Facebook.

"I was bummed to read your letter," he wrote. "The world is so much more complicated than when we first met -- it has changed. And we used to love your jokes about tacquitos and 420 but now they don't seem so funny."

The irreverent 5-year-old site, which has bragged about its decision to advertise on porn websites and joked about its TV ads that (allegedly accidentally) showed a bear's penis, mostly posted Web memes and pictures of food on its Facebook page. And the "breakup letter" included a joke about making a decision because "it was 4:20 at the time." That's a reference to a term that's become code for the best time to smoke marijuana.

Facebook has defended its algorithm, which features some posts prominently while downplaying others. While many users say they want to see every post from their friends and all the pages they've liked, Facebook argues that would create an overwhelming flood of lower-quality content.

In his response to Eat24, Facebook's McCormick didn't address the promoted-post issue but suggested users prefer to see news from friends over companies' marketing pitches.

"There is some serious stuff happening in the world and one of my best friends just had a baby and another one just took the best photo of his homemade cupcakes and what we have come to realize is people care about those things more than sushi porn," McCormick said. "So we are sorry that we have to part this way because we think we could still be friends -- really we do. But we totally respect you if you need some space."

Facebook appears to have made a concerted effort to limit how much content users see from companies' pages. A recent study found that companies' posts reached 6% of their followers in February, down from 12% in October. "Like many mediums, if businesses want to make sure that people see their content, the best strategy is, and always has been, paid advertising," a spokeswoman told Time.

In its letter, Eat24, which is available exclusively in the United States, says it previously paid Facebook to promote some of its posts and saw its follower count swell with users from other countries.

It said the company plans to continue its social media activities on other sites and apps.

"Not to hit below the belt, but we have a lot more fun when we hang out with Twitter and Instagram," the letter reads. "They don't have weird algorithms, which means all of our besties get to see everything we post."

Instagram, of course, has been owned by Facebook since 2012.

Ironically, Eat24's breakup letter appears to be, far and away, its most popular post on the site.

As of Monday morning, it had more than 2,200 "likes" and had been shared nearly 1,000 times. Its other most recent posts ranged in "likes" from a dozen or so up to about 180.

Most of the comments were supportive, even when some fans sensed an ulterior motive.

"I know this is a PR stunt, but this is my favorite PR stunt," one user wrote. "As always -- brilliant, guys."

The company's reply: "No comment, except thank you."

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT