#DeleteFacebook: Is the Social Media Giant Doomed?

March was a rough month for the social media giant that everyone loves to hate. Facebook was rocked by revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm, gained access to potentially private information from over 50 million users. The revelation was made worse given the politically charged climate and how that data was used – namely, to target and influence voters in the acrimonious 2016 presidential election.

We’ll take a brief look at the latest scandal and address how it might affect your social media strategy in the future.

The Scandal’s Origins

The source of the scandal dates all the back to 2014 when a researcher with Cambridge University (no connection to Cambridge Analytica) consensually collected user data through a personality test. When a user took the test, they voluntarily gave up personal information about themselves and people on their friend list. This practice was allowed by Facebook at the time but is now a banned practice.

Once the data was collected, it was handed over to Cambridge Analytica in violation of Facebook’s terms and conditions which prohibit any transfer “to any ad network, data broker, or other advertising or monetization-related service.” Facebook first found out about this transfer in 2015 and they demanded the illicit data be deleted immediately. According to Facebook, they received confirmation that the data was deleted and believed the episode to be over.

The Scandal Erupts

Everything was pretty quiet until 2016 when Cambridge Analytica was hired by the Trump campaign to provide ‘psychographical’ information in an attempt to influence voters based on a wide range of personality and psychological factors. While there are large privacy concerns surrounding this whole process, the scandal was made worse by the bitter nature of the 2016 political season.

For social media marketers, there is nothing particularly startling about the idea that Facebook would use customer data in this way (even if the political nature makes it a bit icky). But as Victor Pan, HubSpot Head of SEO said recently, “None of this tech is new to advertisers. But there’s an uncanny valley experience that is also true with personalized advertising – and we’re there right now.”

Facebook vs. the Public

The revelations around Facebook and Cambridge Analytica sparked instant outrage across the internet. On Twitter, the hashtag #DeleteFacebook took off and the internet exploded with articles, questions, and explorations of Facebook’s privacy practices.

Victor Pan again, “It doesn’t feel very good to know that you’re being manipulated, and people are turning denial into anger.” There has probably been some general idea that Facebook was using personal data for marketing purposes, but the Cambridge Analytica scandal put that use under the spotlight – and people didn’t like it.

It further complicated matters that people were starting to sour on Facebook as a social media platform for other reasons. The growth of advertising, the problem of fake news, and hostile debates have all hurt Facebook’s popularity over the last year. And now the Cambridge Analytica comes at the worst possible time for Facebook. But will it be enough to challenge the king of social media?

The Future of Facebook

The ‘I’m quitting Facebook’ takes have been coming in hot and heavy over the last two weeks. So, what does the future hold for Facebook? We’ll take a quick look at what this most recent scandal means for Facebook users, businesses, and marketers.

Facebook Users

For Facebook users (who don’t follow the #DeleteFacebook bandwagon) the day-to-day experience is unlikely to change. There will surely be some damage control – mostly theatrical – around security settings and opt-out options.

While Facebook is losing ground among the Generation Z demographic, it will most likely to continue to be the least-common-denominator social media channel. It’s still the best place to reach your neighbor, grandmother, and favorite brand all in one place. So, don’t expect Facebook to really start hurting any time soon.

Facebook Business Pages

It is a hard time to run a business page on Facebook. The proliferation of brands and businesses looking for free exposure on Facebook has led to algorithm changes that are severely limiting organic reach – unless you can produce ‘meaningful social interactions.’

This hampering of organic reach means you’re probably already suffering – and this latest scandal won’t do much to change that. Unless you are paying for Facebook advertising – in which case you are likely to see some changes on the horizon. But we’ll address that next.

Facebook Advertisers

The biggest change will be noticed on marketers and businesses that use Facebook to advertise. Just last week, Facebook cut ties with data providers (such as Experian and Acxiom) that match your social activity with real-world shopping and income data.

The full effect of this move will depend on what and how you are advertising on Facebook. If income levels or shopping history are a big part of your targeting method, you are going to need to adjust your strategy. But if you are advertising based on job, likes, or hobbies; then you are probably not going to notice the change much.

The Future of Social Media

We’ve grown accustomed to the fast-moving nature of social media, but that only makes predicting the future of social media more difficult. That is why successful social media marketing relies on staying agile in a shifting landscape.

Facebook isn’t going to shut down overnight (especially with the massive growth of Instagram), but we’re not going to sit back and relax. When the next inevitable shift happens, we’ll be ready to pivot and utilize the latest tools to ensure you continue to see social media success.

If you’re in need of social media assistance, we’re here to help. Contact Fusion Group USA today to learn more about our wide range of social media marketing services.

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