|April 5, 2018|
It’s been a scandalous couple of years for Facebook, as the social media titan has found itself bouncing from one controversy to the next.
Between abuses by the Russians and Cambridge Analytica, Facebook is being blamed for everything from Brexit and the election of Trump, to the proliferation of Fake News and the ongoing atmosphere of political turmoil and division in the US. Go far enough back, and Facebook could even be implicated in Obama’s 2012 presidential victory.
Leaving aside the drama of it all for a moment, the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica story is the biggest story in marketing in ages – and there is a lot to take away from it that is pertinent to our industry.
If anyone is still holding onto any doubts about the power of social media or digital marketing as a whole, it’s time to give up on that little piece of scepticism.
Russia is alleged to have used targeted Facebook advertising in 2016 to identify groups that would be receptive to their messages of division and stir up the hornet’s nest that is America’s bipolar national political character.
One look at American political discourse since then, will confirm that things are definitely more stirred up than they’ve been for a while. The Russians’ social media campaign, at least to an extent, achieved the results it set out to achieve.
In more recent events, you might have become familiar with the name Cambridge Analytica – the company behind the biggest data-sharing scandal to have hit Facebook since… well, since ever.
In a nutshell, Cambridge Analytica is a political consulting firm that purchased the data of some 50 million Facebook users, gathered by a third party app developer. This data was then utilised to mount extensive campaigns in support of the two of the most surprising events of the past decade: Brexit and Donald Trump’s election.
We’ve already seen this in a rudimentary (but ever more sophisticated) fashion throughout the history of marketing. Writing up a customer profile has long been the practice of marketers as we refine and tailor our messages to the specific audience that we are trying to reach.
Big data has made those profiles far more detailed than marketers of the past could ever have hoped. Using psychometric personality profiling and the data acquired from Facebook, Cambridge Analytica claimed to have been able to identify, with impressive accuracy, the people that would be most receptive to the messages they were putting out into the world – qualified leads, in other words.
That is exactly what every advertising agency and marketer in the world is trying to do (though, we’re not all trying to position reality TV stars as heads of state).
Marketers have not been ignorant of the field of psychometrics, but it is a field in its infancy and its practical applications to marketing have only just been touched on in the industry.
With the scientific and analytical approach that big data has allowed agencies to take to their targeting, expect to see more and more crossover from the field of personality psychometrics.
The indignant uproar directed at Facebook over the data breach that Cambridge Analytica was at the centre of, has proven a point – though not quite the one that many people still seem to think.
The #deletefacebook movement championed by Elon Musk and Whatsapp co-founder, Brian Acton, hasn’t gained the expected traction and, while the social platform’s stock fell hard – few, if any, users have closed their accounts.
So what’s the takeaway?
Consumers know that their data is out there. They know that they’re sacrificing a little bit of privacy for the convenience of contact provided by Facebook.
What people have been saying (and this goes double for South Africans) is that they want their Facebook accounts, but they want the privacy settings to be easier to find and less convoluted to understand. They don’t want obscure and esoteric terms and conditions. They want clarity and transparency.
They want to know what to expect.
People can be very cavalier with their personal information, because they trust their brands and service providers to be responsible and upfront about how it is going to be used.
While we’re pretty sure Facebook will survive this controversy, it will have to make changes to the way it does things. Already, we’ve seen that Facebook is planning on leaning away from being an advertising platform and more toward providing the connectivity between friends and families that it was originally intended for.
With advertising having been at the centre of its scandals, who knows what changes Facebook might need to enact to keep its users and the courts happy. Whatever they’re going to be, it is very possible that they will be detrimental to social media marketing efforts.
And that emphasises the importance of spreading your eggs out amongst multiple baskets.
Social media, and Facebook specifically, is great for building brand awareness and developing a rapport with your brand’s audience. But your promotional efforts have to spread beyond one channel or platform, or a single controversy could cripple your marketing.
This is a part of why Wetpaint Advertising does not discriminate between channels, platforms or media – we utilise every effective tactic we can, and leverage the most effective available means (online and off) to spread our clients’ brands’ messages.