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Facebook scandal could force shift in marketing tactics

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In the wake of the recent data breach and subsequent scandal involving United Kingdom-based Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, business owners and marketing teams are finding themselves stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place.

With swaths of users protesting or – worse – deactivating their Facebook profiles altogether, should your business stay or go?

Thankfully, the #DeleteFacebook movement (as concerning as it may be) doesn’t mean your business needs to follow in Elon Musk’s steps and take the nuclear option, at least not yet.

Here’s why: Facebook is already taking steps toward fixing the data-mining issue (or at least it has promised to).

We’re learning more about exactly how Cambridge Analytica gathered and exploited Facebook user data, who knew about it and what execs at Facebook failed to do in combating it. And while all that gets sorted out with hearings, Federal Trade Commission investigations, etc., Facebook has begun taking steps to put its users’ privacy front and center.

EASIER CONTROL BY USERS

As its solution, Facebook announced it will roll out, over the next several weeks, a more centralized settings hub where users can set their privacy and security settings.

This one-stop portal will give users easier control over their information that is shared within Facebook, to third-party apps and advertisers. These privacy controls previously were in roughly 20 hard-to-find locations across the platform.

While many will say this is merely a bandage on a larger issue, the fact remains that Facebook’s reaction has forced today’s social-media-obsessed public to stop and think about where its personal information is stored online and how it can be used, abused, bought or sold.

NEWS FEED CHANGE

Meanwhile, keep an eye on other changes that can directly affect businesses.

While the Cambridge Analytica saga has been dominating the news cycle, it isn’t the biggest issue you need to contend with now if Facebook is a platform your business relies on for marketing products or services.

The news feed algorithm change announced in January is having a much greater effect, both on how businesses operate on Facebook and how they use it to share content and tell their stories.

DECREASE IN ORGANIC REACH

Whether you know it or not, Facebook now prioritizes news feed content from users’ friends, family and groups.

Facebook wants users’ experience on the platform to be friendlier, more personal and offer more “meaningful interaction.”

This has caused businesses to see a decrease in organic reach.

So unless your business is creating content that encourages “meaningful interaction,” your message is likely to be lost in the news feed algorithm.

WAIT AND SEE

As the focus has been heavily on user experience and data protections, Facebook has yet to address whether any restrictions or changes are coming to its paid advertising offerings in light of the Cambridge Analytica story.

Until an announcement is made that users will begin seeing fewer ads in their news feeds or that advertisers will have fewer targeting abilities at their disposal, there’s no reason to sound any alarm bells on this front.

MULTIPLE CHANNELS

If you market strategically, your business will withstand social media’s constantly evolving whims.

Whether you focus your marketing efforts on a local or national scale, Facebook shouldn’t be the sole channel you use to communicate or amplify your message to your audience.

Having a strategic, multichannel approach that succeeds in marrying digital and traditional media means that you can adapt and change course if one platform takes a public relations hit as significant as this.

COST VS. BENEFIT

Even while Facebook’s market value continues to drop, the fact remains that it hasn’t suffered a mass exodus of its more than 2 billion active users in light of this scandal. Whether that stems from some combination of users not knowing and not caring about where their personal data go is unknown.

What business owners can do is think of this from the perspective of a cost-benefit analysis.

So for now, will Facebook stay true to its word on becoming a more transparent and trustworthy company?

Only time will tell.

Steve Groller is the social media manager at Klunk & Millan Advertising, South Whitehall Township. With more than five years of experience in social media and online marketing, he leads all social media initiatives at the agency, from strategy and optimization to execution and measurement. He can be reached at steve@klunkmillan.com.

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