Lessons that digital marketers need to learn from the Facebook fiasco

Tue, 08/05/2018 - 11:36

Digital marketers have to stay on top of trends, which includes reading the news to find out about happenings that could affect their industry. The Facebook fiasco has become a buzzing news piece in recent days, and digital marketers can use it as a serious learning experience. 

What, exactly, is the Facebook ‘data breach’ all about?
Recently, Facebook has encountered some heavy fire from the media due to supposed data breaches that Cambridge Analytica had a hand in. Cambridge Analytica is a data analytics firm that wanted to try its hand at politics, and wanted to find an edge that other similar consulting companies hired by political campaigns did not have. The solution was thought to be found in personal Facebook data. 

This edge had to go beyond the usual name, age, email address, and demographics. It had to include behavioural data such as Page and Comment likes and interactions. This behavioural data helped Cambridge Analytics to do its job of helping the 2016 Trump election campaign by accessing the behavioural data of users to compose messages to influence possible Trump voters. 

The user data was used by the firm to create messages to sway voters, which goes against Facebook Terms and Conditions, which state: “...partners must adhere to strict confidentiality obligations in a way that is consistent with this Data Policy and the agreements we enter into with them.” The academic research allowance of Facebook’s terms and conditions played into the hands of Cambridge Analytica, allowing them to gain access to user’s personal data. The users had to opt in to a personality test and download a third-party app that scraped some of that information, as well as similar data from their friends. It is important to note that Facebook itself did not leak any consumer data, but rather Cambridge Analytica was given access to consumer data under the the billing of ‘academic research’.

What does this mean for digital marketers?
Consumer trust has been breached 
This data ‘leak’ has come amid growing discontent around how consumer data is being gathered and used to deliver harmful, controversial and extremist content to consumers on Facebook and other platforms. 

Consumers have always naturally been protective of their personal data, but are now even more so reluctant to give details to any advertisers or marketers. A data-led marketing agency will need to be transparent about how consumer details will be used, which will allow consumers to better understand why the data collection is necessary, which is to deliver experiences and interactions that are more relevant to them. 

You need to really know your third-party partners
While Facebook provides easy access to third-party data-collectors that can help marketers discover people most likely to be interested in your products or services, it is important to know your third-party partners and be confident that you know exactly what they will be using the personal data of your customers for. 

The crux of the issue with the Facebook data ‘breach’ was that Cambridge Analytica used a third-party in the form of an app created by Dr. Aleksandr Kogan, a professor at Cambridge University. He did not reveal anything more to Facebook users other than that he was collecting this data solely for academic purposes, but passed the data onto Cambridge Analytica. He breached Facebook’s privacy violations codes, and if you use a third-party for anything, you will need to be sure that you know their precise intentions and methods. 

You will need informed consent from users
As a marketing agency who wants to collect data from social media or other platforms, you will have to seek explicit consent from users. While this may seem time-consuming, if you do not ask your clients for their consent, you will end up in very hot legal water. 

This will also change the way data harvesting is performed, as some marketers relied on the ‘loyalty card’ method of gathering data on consumers, whereby the tracked data from the loyalty card is sold to brands to improve their marketing campaigns. You will have to give full disclosure about how you plan on using this data now, and if consumers say no to your harvesting of their data, you will have to comply. 

Where to now?
Marketing companies love Facebook, this is a simple fact. The company’s market cap is almost $5 billion and this money does not come from your neighbour’s cat pictures (stylish as that cat may be). Recently, Zuckerberg promised deeper scrutiny of data-collectors on his social network, meaning that data access will be dramatically reduced. 

What this means for data-driven marketers and digital marketers is that the usually calm waters of Facebook targeting may become stormier seas. Digital marketers will have to be extremely cautious when gathering data, it will no longer be a simple case of tracking loyalty cards and looking at Facebook Page likes and comments. 

Your strategies will have to change, and you may need consider looking at other digital platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+. While it is not time to rule Facebook out just yet – you will simply have to adjust to the new rules and regulations that are likely to be put in place. 

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