Month: April, 2018
Last week, Facebook sent a notice to users directly impacted by the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. “We understand the importance of keeping your data safe”, it began. The notice explained that Facebook has banned the app “This Is Your Digital Life”, the third party tool created by researcher Aleksandr Kogan, who collected and extracted the data of over 80 million Facebook users and sold this information to several political campaigns. Further, Facebook encouraged users to review the apps and websites which currently have access to information on their profile. They emphasize that they are “committed to confronting abuse and to putting you in control of your privacy”.
This is one of just many changes that are expected to come as many Facebook users
grapple with the fact that their data isn’t quite as private as they thought.
As Facebook moves forward from Cambridge Analytica, there are two truths we must acknowledge:
- Data is at the core of what Facebook does, and demographic knowledge such as age, location, and relationship status are only the start. The company brings in $40 billion in advertising revenue annually because it offers brands data that gives them an unparalleled ability to target consumers.
- Facebook is able to target ads to potential consumers by using artificial intelligence in order to analyze our behavior across the web. When internet users venture to other sites, Facebook can still monitor what they are doing with software like its ubiquitous “Like” and “Share” buttons. In fact, signing up for Facebook requires opting in to their data policy, which “includes information about the websites and apps you visit, your use of our services on those websites and apps, as well as information the developer or publisher of the app or website provides to you or us”.
It’s increasingly evident that the type and volume of data the platform has been collecting for years may be a revelation for most Facebook users who breezed through the lengthy terms and conditions portion of the sign-up process. What exactly does Facebook know about me? How are they collecting this information? Who has access to it?
Luckily, as mentioned above, there has already been action to combat the ability of third-party apps to mine user data when they are accessed by someone logging into the Facebook to share an article or take a quiz – in fact, the Cambridge Analytica outcry was triggered after The New York Times and others reported last month that a quiz app, “This Is Your Digital Life”, made by Mr. Kogan had collected information on Facebook users.
Which third-party apps might have had access to your profile? Games like FarmVille, Candy Crush and Words With Friends; apps that broadcast your extra-Facebook activities, like Spotify and Pinterest; and apps that were almost explicitly about gathering as much useful data as possible from users, like TripAdvisor’s Cities I’ve Visited app, which let you share a digital pushpin map with your friends.
New Privacy Controls
So, what can you do as a user with Facebook’s new privacy and data features?
- Check to see if your data was used by Cambridge Analytica here.
- Review the apps and sites that you’ve allowed access to your Facebook profile here.
- Explore your ad preferences and related settings here.
- Take a look at your Facebook privacy settings here.
Impact on Business
If you’re a business owner, you may also be asking yourself how Facebook’s potential changes will affect the ability of your content being seen on the platform, whether that’s organic posts having the reach and engagement they used to or your ads being seen by an audience of your target demographic. How can I target ads effectively when people are beginning to remove their data from Facebook? How will Facebook gather data offsite in a more transparent way moving forward? Will this affect the Pixel I have on my website?
How exactly the platform will change over time may not yet be apparent. We can be certain that Facebook will be held to a higher standard moving forward, especially when collecting data across the web for platform users and non-users alike, as the demand for transparent actions increases and the third party apps’ access to data decreases.
The Pixel itself is already a relatively transparent measurement. To review, your Pixel is set up through Facebook’s Business Manager and then activated by code you put onto your website. The Pixel can track conversions (newsletter sign-ups, completed online sales, etc) on your website or simply collect information on who visited your website and how long they spent there. You can create an audience based off previous website visitors within Facebook Ads Manager, which is advantageous for retargeting campaigns as well as the creation of “lookalike” audiences constructed from site visits. Taking advantage of the data your Pixel gathers is especially helpful when constructing audiences for your ad campaigns; coupled with meaningful and relevant messaging in your ad copy, the creation of targeted audiences allows brands a clear path forward as the uncertainty of access to user data clouds the future.
Shifting Strategy to Reach Facebook Users
As we mentioned to our clients earlier this year, the era of posting multiple times a day is over, and the platform is continuing to prioritize quality over quantity when it comes to allowing businesses the newsfeed space they used to: “Facebook will not measure its success based solely on the time its users spend watching videos,” said Zuckerberg on January 31. “It will optimize instead for meaningful social interactions”. Our content strategists have taken this to heart, searching for new opportunities to tell in-depth stories for our clients and shifting the language in posts and ads we create to minimize any “sales-y” calls to action (“come on down to the store”, “get this”, “stop by my event”).
If you haven’t already done so, now is a great opportunity to produce content that creates opportunities for meaningful conversation to cut through the algorithm. It’s also increasingly important that businesses of all sizes are focusing on customer service replies more deliberately than ever — keep in mind that positive and negative interactions are nearly equally ranked opportunities to drive brand reach.
For now, short video is still king, with intentional organic content close behind. Avoiding an overflow of organic posts (posting just for the sake of posting) is the best place to start when it comes to improving your brand’s presence on Facebook. It’s also important to maintain an intentional, relevant lens with a consistent brand voice when crafting ad campaigns.
No matter the changes that Facebook may make over the coming months, telling stories with your paid and organic content is one thing that’s here to stay.
Kailey Emerson is a senior strategist for Smirk New Media.
Editor’s Note: This is the fifth blog in a content series by Smirk New Media about the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal and Facebook’s response. Read the other posts here.
So far, this blog series has discussed this issues surrounding Facebook, the platform’s reaction to these issues, and the changes being implemented as a result. This part of the series is taking a different approach. I want to talk about why Facebook is still an effective platform for digital marketing.
Despite the charges, changes, and Congressional questions, Facebook remains a pioneer in digital marketing with an enormous amount of active users and some of the most accessible targeting tools.
The Popular Vote
Facebook’s number of active users is in the billions. They were the first social media platform to cross that threshold and have maintained steady growth year after year. This platform connects people all around the world and provides a place to consume news, pop culture, and funny dog videos.
Typically, a scandal like Cambridge Analytica would cripple a business, but Facebook has not seen any significant decline in active users. How is that possible? Zuck touched on it briefly while fielding questions in front of Congress, but Facebook is not a platform with just one service. They act as a social network, a news outlet, a digital marketing platform, an online marketplace, and an event planning tool – to name a few – and they will remain relevant for the foreseeable future.
Even though the platform recently reported a decrease in active users from the younger generations, those audience members are still reachable on Instagram, WhatsApp, etc. and Facebook is making changes to increase user experience. Based on those changes, marketing professionals should be fine tuning their targeting skills right about now.
When it comes to advertising, Facebook has created an intuitive platform that remains a crucial part of any marketing strategy. Yes, the changes being implemented make it more difficult to get business accounts onto their audience’s news feeds. However, to offset these changes, will simply take a more detailed focus on the targeting tools available and possible pivots in strategy.
While we mentioned consumers’ ability to opt-out of sharing their data in the previous blog, doing so would prevent relevant ads from reaching those users. Instead, those who opt-out will mostly receive general ads for various unrelated products and services.
Facing the Ch-Ch-Changes on Facebook
The tools to successful digital marketing are readily available and targeting allows businesses to get in front of the right audiences. This new era of Facebook will change the way marketers approach ad campaigns. However, the basics remain the same. A good strategy includes the target audience, and Facebook supplies the way to reach them.
Emily Martinez is a strategist for Smirk New Media.
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth blog in a content series by Smirk New Media about the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal. Next in Smirk New Media’s We Need to Talk About Facebook series, a look at what’s next from Senior Strategist Kailey Emerson.
Read the next blog post here.
Facebook is taking swift action to calm growing concerns from Congress and the public about the platform’s approach to privacy and data security. Its response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the resulting changes to the platform will have a profound impact on brands, developers and users moving forward.
On April 10, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg went live at a joint hearing with the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees and on April 11, he testified in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Zuckerberg told Congress Facebook is taking proactive action to prevent incidents like this from happening in the future, but this announcement may be too little, too late. Whether change comes from platform inclination or through government regulation, this seismic shift will constrict and change the way advertisers can reach people online.
Facebook is working to roll out solutions quickly in response to the growing stories surrounding their company and data misuse.
Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Shroepfer wrote a blog post within the last week outlining several changes that are in the works on Facebook’s API to limit the volume of data app developers can collect from Facebook users. With the Events API, for example, apps will no longer be able to access attendees or posts on the event wall, and the Groups API will no longer provide member lists or names associated with posts or comments. Apps will no longer be able to see a user’s religious or political views, relationship status, education, work history, and tons more, all of which was previously readily available.
They announced plans to display all active advertisements on each brand’s page in response to the Russian interference scandal. This feature is currently only available to users in Canada but will roll out in the U.S. in the coming months.
In September, Facebook rolled out a feature called “Recent Ad Activity.” This feature allows users to see which brands they have connected with in the past, which ads you’ve clicked on as well as how the brand connected with you initially. Below is a screenshot of what it looks like from the user’s perspective.
Revamped Privacy Controls
Facebook has also rolled out some redesigns to make it easier for users to see and adjust their privacy settings. Much of the discussion during Zuckerberg’s Congressional testimony had to do with what users could keep private and whether those settings were opt-in or opt-out.
On the platform’s mobile app, Facebook has tweaked its user experience. According to Time Magazine, “The company says the new layout will streamline the settings into one location “instead of having settings spread across nearly 20 different screens.”
Downloading your personal data has been the most interesting change so far. Facebook is letting users see just what it knows about them, but downloading all of their data settings. It’s made for some interesting discoveries and will continue to for users who may have been naive about what they let apps and Facebook know about them.
These new privacy-related features are just beginning as public pressure forces Facebook and other online platforms to prioritize privacy and data security more consequentially than ever before.
There needs to be a balance in which users feel safe and protected, but businesses still see potential in opportunities like they do now. Advertising transparency will be a vital component for companies on Facebook to retain their relationship with consumers. With change comes opportunity. With that in mind, advertisers will have to adapt to these changes and pivot their strategy on the platform.
Annie Strom is a strategist for Smirk New Media.
Editor’s Note: This is the third blog in a content series by Smirk New Media about the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal. Next in Smirk New Media’s We Need to Talk About Facebook series, a look at why the platform still works by Strategist Emily Martinez.
Read the next blog post here.
There’s a theory that’s been around for as long as the Internet – there are two groups who innovate the fastest with new technology: pornographers and criminals.
That theory recently proved true again, and that’s the genie Facebook is trying to get back into the bottle and the reason Mark Zuckerberg is testifying in front of Congress this week. Facebook’s decision in 2010 to allow developers to use the Open Graph platform to launch apps to access the data of users — and their friends’ — is at the heart of the issue that has caused this crisis.
During the window between when this development platform was open and when it was shut down in 2014, a lot of bad guys flooded Facebook with a lot of skeezy apps. Why shouldn’t they – Facebook was and still is the greatest collection of consumer information on the planet. Among the dicey apps was one which promised to give users a psychological profile of themselves. It was created by Alexander Kogan, who then sold the data he compiled to Cambridge Analytica.
In all, 300,000 people downloaded the app and shared their data with the app, and Facebook being how it was in 2013, that meant Kogan had access to millions of users’ profile information.
If you were a Facebook user in those days and you used an app to tell your horoscope, to find out what your Myers-Briggs profile was, if you were an introvert, an extrovert or a Trekkie, you gave permission to that app to take as much data about you as you had opted to make public.
That’s a lot of information – and information about your friends. Millions of data points which can be used to great audience profiles and benefit brands looking to connect with certain people and make them take certain actions, like supporting a candidate.
While your friends’ data is no longer available because of Facebook’s changes, the specter of the platform sitting on this reservoir of personal profile information is still freaking everyone out. But for Facebook, all of those demographics, Page likes and group memberships create the cash which makes the company go.
Yesterday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asked Zuckerberg how it was that Facebook made money. The answer from Zuckerberg, “We sell ads.”
Actually what they do is sell the audience. Cambridge Analytica just exploited and innovated off a huge hole in the system which happened nearly ten years ago.
There’s no doubt that there were other bad apps gathering mounds of data during the Wild West days of Open Graph. Their names will bloom up now and then over the coming months. Now that there’s awareness watch out.
Mike Koehler is the founder and chief strategist of Smirk New Media.
Editor’s Note: This is the second blog in a content series by Smirk New Media about the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal. Next in Smirk New Media’s We Need to Talk About Facebook series, a thorough recap of how Facebook got here from Strategist Annie Strom.
Read the next blog in the series here.
When news broke that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm hired by several political campaigns, gained access to private information of more than 80 million Facebook users in March, I realized quickly this scandal had the fuel to impact every online platform. After all, online platforms had free rein to make their own rules and went mostly unregulated in the Digital Age.
Today, Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress giving his account of where the company failed to prevent their platform from being used to harm the public interest. Full disclosure, this post was written before Zuckerberg testified, but there’s no doubt his appearance will be significant. Facebook representatives have appeared before Congress many times to testify on various subjects, but this is different. Zuckerberg appeared for damage control.
As I’ve spoken with clients, prospects, and members of our community in the past few weeks, it’s clear there are a lot of questions about what actually happened in this situation, how Facebook will change because of it, and how those changes will impact both users and brands on the platforms. Through this blog series, we hope to provide you with more clarity on the headlines and our perspective on what this means for social media marketing and digital advertising.
Allie Carrick is president and managing partner of Smirk New Media.
Editor’s Note: This is the first blog in a content series by Smirk New Media about the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal. Next in Smirk New Media’s We Need to Talk About Facebook series, a thorough recap of how Facebook got here from Smirk’s Founder & Chief Strategist Mike Koehler.