Have you ever clicked a link on Facebook to see which “Game of Thrones” character you are? Don’t be embarrassed: you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the company of millions of other users in the U.S. who took that quiz and many others like it.
But when you took the quiz, the app probably asked you for permission to collect data about you, your location, your friends and the content you “like.”
And you were, like, “sure.” (We speak from experience.)
The recent Cambridge Analytica debacle is based on data leaked from a similar app developed by a University of Cambridge psychology professor, Aleksandr Kogan. His app, “This is Your Digital Life,” offered a personality test to Facebook users who downloaded the app and allowed the professor permission to collect all the data therein. The app mined data from nearly 270,000 users, a practice allowed by Facebook at the time.
Things exploded when the New York Times reported that Kogan provided that data – including information from over 50 million profiles – to Cambridge Analytica, breaching Facebook’s rules. Facebook states it had asked Cambridge Analytica to delete the data in 2015 but learned only recently from news reporting that not all of it had been purged.
Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg apologized for the company’s failure to protect users’ data and announced changes to the platform intended to do just that. He also said the company plans to audit apps that were able to access large amounts of information, and that Facebook will ban apps that don’t agree to an audit. (Here’s more information on how Facebook is cracking down on platform abuse.)
Here are the Facts
Of the 3.8 billion internet users around the world, 2.1 billion of them are Facebook users. That means a majority of people on the internet use Facebook and Instagram — which has 800 million users, as well as WhatsApp, which has 1.3 billion users — at some point each month.
Some people might take a break from Facebook or maybe log in a little less frequently. Users might also shift to spending more time on other platforms such as Facebook’s little sibling Instagram (which is owned by Facebook), but considering just how large Facebook is, even if a million people left the platform it would be only 0.05% of its user base. In fact, the number of people who use Facebook totals the population of China – twice – plus the population of the United States. It would have to be a serious worldwide boycott for the equivalent of three continents worth of users to steer clear of the platform.
The truth is, it’s going to be challenging for users to quit Facebook, which is embedded in our lives not only as generation’s worth of valued memories but also a means to connect with everyone you’ve ever met, as well as a unique and unrivaled way to dialogue with your community.
What is the impact on our clients?
People are mad at Facebook (right, Elon Musk?), and they have a right to be. The company allowed thousands of app developers to extract data through seemingly innocuous interactive games and quizzes. The breach has freaked out thousands of people. The result: #deletefacebook and chatter about taking a break from Facebook is now trending on other social networks.
Regardless of where you draw the line on your personal information, using some personal data for your business is a different animal entirely: it’s a critical component of user engagement and of driving traffic to your site, which means more conversions.
So before you consider abandoning Facebook from your marketing efforts, take a look at your recent metrics:
- Audience: Did you lose any followers? And are you losing more than you’re gaining?
- Impressions: Is your content being seen by more or fewer people?
- Engagement: Has it gone up, down or stayed about the same?
When Facebook’s news feed changes were announced earlier this year, we knew there could be some decreases in organic performance. Now more than ever we’ll want to pay attention to social reporting metrics and remain strategic with specific content and the frequency with which it’s posted.
We don’t recommend quitting Facebook as a solution for every brand, but we’re here to help with that and other strategies. As to the personality assessments, we’ll just say this: few of us will ever be the Mother of Dragons no matter how many quizzes we take…