A Look Back at the Facebook Privacy Crisis + A Look at the Future of Paid Campaigns

It was hard to go online in 2018 without seeing news about Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and subsequent litigation. If you lived under a rock last year (or just without the internet), here’s the gist in a nutshell: Cambridge Analytica, a data mining and analytics firm, was found misusing user data from as many as 50 million Facebook users in violation of Facebook’s terms of service. Several steps have been taken including founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony during a joint hearing before members of the US Congress in early April where he was extensively questioned about the scandal and what steps Facebook would take to remedy and prevent future problems.

In response to the scandal, Facebook has introduced several new initiatives, including adjusting their privacy settings page that included shortcuts designed to make it simpler to navigate, as well as the ability to enable two-factor authentication, control what they share or have shared, manage who see their posts and learn about their ad preferences.  Senators have also proposed legislation designed to address various aspects of consumer use of Facebook, including giving consumers greater access to and control over their data, including opting out and disabling data tracking and collection.

So, what does this mean for companies and brands that use social media to communicate with existing and potential customers? For one, it will impact the way consumers view Facebook and the content that brands share with them. There’s no denying that the breach has caused many consumers to distrust content that is shared from a brand online. This negative view can have a trickle-down impact with retainment of followers or reduce a message’s impact with potential followers. Users are now able to see advertisers with their information, which can also cause deeper frustration and distrust. It will no longer be enough to throw overly-promotional, self-serving content at consumers – they will want to see brands with an authentic voice, that don’t come across too gimmicky or advertorial and have their best interests in mind. Transparency and honest, open communication with followers is key to establishing a trusted brand voice.

Changes to the access users have to the ads that appear in their Facebook feed will have an impact on consumer brands, and Facebook has also mentioned that they are considering a paid, ad-free option to the platform. Greater access to the ads they see (or don’t see) coupled with the possibility of an ad-free option mean that brands need to reevaluate their ad messaging and strategy. Ads should be highly-targeted, to an audience that is most engaged with your content and content like yours, and give users incentive to click through. Paid content that appears native or part of your message across Facebook is most likely to resonate with users, and once a consumer has seen value in an advertisement once, they are more likely to keep a brand on their whitelist.

No matter what changes come to Facebook in the future, remaining consistent, honest, and providing consumers with messages and solutions that matter most to them will continue to be the way to create a loyal customer base in the future.

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