Two months ago, Facebook took a hard hit when the public learned that the social media giant allowed the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to harvest personal user data due to a loophole in its user data security.
This, in turn, has caused social media marketers and advertisers more than a little concern, given the limits Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowed to impose, such as auditing apps with user information and requiring user consent before embarking upon custom campaigns.
But, how much has the scandal really affected Facebook users? According to a recent Brand24 blog on the subject, “The scandal will have a greater effect on Facebook advertisers and marketers, as opposed to Facebook users themselves.” If that’s true, social media marketers will indeed need to adapt their campaigns to changes in Facebook’s advertising policies.
But, let’s look first at why people don’t seem to be on a mass exodus from Facebook, even in the wake of the security breach. Human psychology plays a big role, and, given that most Facebook users have been on the platform for about 10 years now, it may not be going away any time soon.
“Facebook is that bar from ‘Cheers’ or a virtual town where everyone knows your name,” said author and psychotherapist Fran Walfish. “Why would you go somewhere else? The primary motivation to be on Facebook is to reap the benefits of huge amounts of positive affirmation. The opposite of that is rejection.”
Walfish goes on to say that people who suddenly go dark on Facebook are seen as either hostile, depressed, suffering from a negative life change, or all of the above. Plus, asserts Simon Rego, chief psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, leaving Facebook is like breaking up with all your friends. Who wants that?
People are also generally less fearful of a violation of their privacy than, say, an outbreak of the E.coli virus, according to senior finance editor Quentin Fottrell. A disease can kill you, but the ramifications of a breach in security are harder to understand.
And, let’s face it, the daily connection over two billion people around the world experience on Facebook is hard to give up, not to mention the online presence they’ve taken years to build.
“No one is leaving,” said CNBC reporter Michelle Castillo, including most marketing and advertising agencies. Contrary to what some marketing experts predict (and to the fact that Commerzbank and Mozilla said they would suspend advertising on Facebook), she wrote, “Agencies are skeptical many people are going to leave Facebook – or at least enough to make a difference for advertisers. The public’s attention span is fleeting…and even massive breaches that affected Yahoo and Equifax haven’t turned people off those services.”
That sentiment is echoed by employees in Facebook’s advertising and media sectors, who wished to remain anonymous: “Most advertisers are not planning to reduce their spend.” And, according to Forbes, “Unless Facebook is able to create new ways to monetize the platform, advertising will continue to be its bread and butter.”
So, which is it? Facebook marketing and advertising is going to wane due to the scandal, or it’s not? Most experts agree that it’s too soon to definitively tell, but there are measures social media marketers can take to address restricted access to Facebook user data that previously afforded them laser insight into consumer behavior, wants and needs.
• First, keep an eye on Facebook’s advertising policies, or ask your marketing experts to inform you of those changes.
• Monitor your social media, which will allow you to glean valuable information about your brand and its success (or lack thereof) from various social media channels and online conversations. If you don’t have the time or personnel to manually track this information, you can employ a marketing agency or make use of the many free social media monitoring tools or paid software applications to do the job. Social media monitoring sheds light on:
o Which influencers are the best for your brand
o What your competition is doing
o Spikes or dips in web traffic, and why
o Mentions of your brand or company
o Topics or keywords/phrases to use in your marketing strategy
o New distribution channels to employ
o The context of online discussions
• Generate fresh, engaging content on a regular basis.
• Identify what is truly unique about your brand and distinguish yourself in meaningful ways from your competition.
• Create hashtags for significant campaigns and monitor online mentions and engagement with them.
Another word of advice might be to relax, as Facebook users seem to be a faithful – and forgiving – bunch. If the platform has been working for your brand, resist the knee-jerk temptation to assume it suddenly won’t. Consider this: as of late April 2018, a month after the Cambridge Analytica breach, there were still 2.2 billion Facebook users across the globe, or nearly 1/3 of the world population. That’s a lot of potential customers!
IVY’s team of experts are helping our clients find continued success with Facebook marketing. Let us help you leverage social media for your campaigns, even in the shadow of doubt.