Posted by Jonathan Clarke - 22 May 2018
It’s been a rocky start to 2018 for social media and Facebook in particular. Facebook has struggled to stay out of the tech media spotlight since the Cambridge Analytica story broke, and for all the wrong reasons. Social media has been a key component of many online campaigns, product marketing, go-to-market and customer engagement strategies for many years now. Where do these latest scandals leave us, and has much really changed?
The Facebook scandal
Much has been written about Cambridge Analytica (CA) and their use and abuse of Facebook data. Suffice to say, Facebook has positioned this as CA abusing the Facebook-provided data. Facebook has argued that this misuse of the firehose of data they provided to CA came as a surprise. I think this amounts to either incompetence, naivety or dishonesty on Facebook’s part. Facebook had gone on to facilitate the further use of this data to target relevant Facebook users.
Facebook has apologised for breaching trust and not doing enough to protect the privacy of its users. It’s hard to tell if this is genuine or not, but Facebook has a long history of making decisions that aren’t in the best interest of its users and asking for forgiveness later. As a MetaFilter user once observed, “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product”. It’s probably best to think of Facebook's customer as its advertising partners, analytics organisations, data miners and other organisations. The people who login and use the Facebook service are best described as it’s users.
It’s widely expected there are more large scale scandals coming for Facebook, so watch this space.
Is all social media affected?
To some extent, yes, but Facebook is taking most of the heat right now. There are undoubtedly people within Twitter and even Google who are busy ensuring their own house is in order. Facebook properties like Instagram are likely also affected but the nature of the content on Instagram means the ability to influence people is different than on Facebook.
Are people abandoning Facebook and other social media?
In short: no. Whilst there has been a vocal #deletefacebook campaign, and some defections there is little evidence of a mass-exodus from the platform. Anecdotally we have seen very few people delete their Facebook account.
What about advertisers?
There have been some high profile corporates leave the platform, including Tesla, Sonos, Mozilla, Commerzbank, and Playboy. In recent years it has become unthinkable to not have a Facebook presence for brands like these and what must concern Facebook is that some brands no longer think this is the case.
Facebook’s problems began well before the CA scandal
A key problem for the platform is the significant drop-off in engagement over the last 12 months. This has never been acknowledged by Facebook, but it is not unnoticed in the industry. You may have even noticed it yourself: every time you open Facebook you are prompted to reshare an old memory, your feed is full of others sharing old memories, not new moments. This lack of new content builds exponentially and your friends have the same experience. This ultimately manifests itself in people checking Facebook less frequently because less seems to be happening on the platform.
Facebook is still being used but it’s likely that people are spending significantly less time on the platform. What has caused this? There are many theories including too much advertising occupying the feed, too much news, over manipulation of the feed, the content of the feed, or just competition for people's attention from other platforms like YouTube, Netflix, Snapchat, and others.
How to use social media to your advantage in 2018
If you have a good engaged Facebook presence, not much has changed. If your presence is not large, you have few followers, then maintaining your Facebook page may be less important than it used to be. If you rely on business to business interactions, platforms like LinkedIn are likely to have more value. Twitter is, and has always been, a relatively niche platform. It’s popular for customer service issues and does need to be monitored.
Analyse the engagement on each platform, remember that a drop in engagement might not be a result of anything you are doing, it could be that the platform is failing to continue to bring the users you have been used to seeing in the past.
Utilising traditional ad networks within Google, Instagram, and others continue to be a solid strategy depending on what your offering is.
Using social logins to your site or services?
If your website or service uses social logins, you should have a seamless way for users to migrate to an email only login. With traditional SSO that entirely relies on Facebook or other services you risk losing this user if they delete their Facebook account.
Do you need help navigating any of this? Reach out to our team of experts who can help.
Jonathan Clarke has more than 20 years’ experience working in the IT industry. He is passionate about UX and UI, has a keen eye for detail, and relishes the challenge of making the complex simple.
When not working, he can be found spending quality time with his family outdoors, walking, cycling and tinkering with IoT devices and home automation.