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.
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.
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.
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 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. 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 over 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.
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. Read the other posts here. Next in Smirk New Media’s We Need to Talk About Facebook series, a look at what’s next from senior strategist Kailey Emerson. Also, watch Allie Carrick and Mike Koehler’s discussion on Zuckerberg’s testimony on Facebook Live.
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 APIs 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 Facebook 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.
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 Facebook 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. Read the other posts here. Next in Smirk New Media’s We Need to Talk About Facebook series, a look at why the platform still works. Also, watch Allie Carrick and Mike Koehler’s discussion on Zuckerberg’s testimony on Facebook Live.
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. Read the other posts here. 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. Also, Allie and Mike discussed Zuckerberg’s testimony on Facebook Live.
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. Read the latest blogs in the series here. 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. Also, watch Allie and Mike discuss Zuckerberg’s testimony on Facebook Live.
Reddit will let advertisers target users by interest, browsing history, community, geography, and type of device. Brands will also be able to choose which subreddits they want their ads to appear next to and which to avoid. Advertisers will have the ability to turn off comments, just like with desktop-based ads. These tools offer a safety net for brands who want to be included in the conversation but are rightfully cautious.
In one month, Reddit boasted an incredible 274 million unique visitors, each spending over 14 minutes on the site. Advertising on Reddit is ideal for brands targeting a younger demographic. 87% of Reddit users are under 35. Reddit says 80% of their mobile users aren’t on the desktop version of the site. This move opens a vast new demographic to advertisers.
Reddit allows users to comment and interact with people across the globe. If you can think of a topic, there is a subreddit on it. It’s considered the front page of the internet and for good reason. It is the central hub for pop culture and offers a space for everyone to share ideas, reactions, and breaking news.
The only visual difference between user-generated organic posts and promoted content will be a “Promoted” label on the top of the post. Users will be able to upvote, downvote and comment on the native advertisements just like any other post in their feed.
Native advertising changed the game for marketers. It allows brands to connect and engage with consumers in a non-disruptive way. Brands can more easily build trust and integrate into consumer’s social media and everyday life.
Online presence is increasingly significant for brands. In the digital age, storytelling, as well as the art of crafting engaging and relevant content, has to be the foundation of a brand’s online presence. The Smirk team takes pride in staying ahead of the curve on social strategy. If refining your online presence is something you are interested in, reach out and we can schedule a free consultation.
As a digital firm, our team was thrilled to partner with Google for the Grow with Google event in OKC last Wednesday. The day full of workshops, coaching, and swag-acquisition took place at The Devon Boathouse and featured local food trucks throughout the day. Our entire team was in attendance and took full advantage of the resources offered, each member participated in several workshops and decorated virtual reality (VR) goggles.
Apart from the free merchandise, this event provided an accessible, educational, and fun experience for anyone looking to refine their tech knowledge. Attendees ranged from digital professionals to local restaurant owners, even children, and illustrated the reach of the Google platforms. Following the event, our team shared their experiences amongst each other and realized everyone had a unique takeaway. So, instead of trying to summarize our different perspectives, everyone has put Grow with Google into their own words below.
I enjoyed the way Google utilized the uniqueness of the Devon Boathouse space: they had plenty of interactive stations with Google employees, technology to try out, and goodies like Google Cardboard to take home. I attended a talk on how data drives growth and was extremely impressed with both the turnout and the speaker’s presentation. Attending Grow with Google was a great use of my time, and I’m excited that the whole team was able to participate.
One of the coolest parts of the Grow with Google event was how it brought people from all walks of life and skill sets together to learn something they have never done before. The part I enjoyed most was the coding breakout session, Get Started with Code. As a creative person, I would have never guessed that I would have liked coding. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to branch out and try something new.
I was super impressed with the quality of the event and the team that Google brought to Oklahoma City. Here are just a few things that impressed me at the event. I was able to learn how to improve the SEO & Map Listing for Smirk via the Google My Business team. I learned that you can use the power of the Google search bar to take your job search to the next level. And lastly, I was impressed with the partnership with local organizations like Oklahoma Women in Tech & Techlahoma. Through these partnerships, Google is supporting more diversity and inclusion for STEM jobs in Oklahoma.
The Grow With Google event was unlike anything we’ve ever seen in Oklahoma City. With billions of active users, it’s a rare opportunity for digital pros and business owners to receive one-on-one training and attend workshops taught by Googlers. While this was only the second event of its kind, it was a dynamic, seamless and fun experience. Every Google pro was friendly and excited to discuss how he or she could help us. I had a chance to join the event organizers from Google and other local partners for a tasty breakfast. We learned that through local partners, like Smirk, businesses will have access to more in-person trainings and resources than ever in 2018. This event left me with such a positive impression of the Google team and optimism about how expanding digital tools will ignite business growth in our community.
It was refreshing as a partner agency to talk to real people from Google about how we can take the baton from them as a platform and really help businesses in OKC. Google wants to help customers find companies online, but there is only so much they can stuff into a one-day event. Hearing from Google about how they value our partnership and what we can work on together regarding training and boosting business brands was incredible. They launched a new platform for us, and now we have real-life human beings we can talk to if there’s ever an issue for our clients or our strategists. Three cheers for human beings!
After using the various Google platforms for as long as I can remember, it was fascinating to be able to speak to Googlers face-to-face. Everyone on the Google team was friendly and helpful which made the experience even better. It was also interesting to learn about the different Google initiatives and outreach programs, such as Google’s Impact Challenge and Google Cardboard, that demonstrate their dedication to society. However, I think my favorite part of the event was the coding class. I took several different courses throughout the day that taught you how to optimize the Google platforms, but I was skeptical about the coding class. Now, I am not a programmer at all, and the entire course was intuitive, easy to understand, and very rewarding. It is so awesome how Google has made the tech world accessible to everyone.
Overall, our team was thrilled with the event and everything they learned throughout the day. As a Google Partner, Smirk New Media advanced its capabilities and wants to help fellow Okies do the same.
Smirk New Media is thrilled to announce its partnership with Google for the Grow with Google Oklahoma City event on December 6.
This day-long event will be held at the Devon Boathouse and consists of workshops, coaching, demos, networking, and panel discussion featuring some of OKC’s Digital Heroes. Googlers will be directly interacting with attendees in various training sessions throughout the day and hosting hands-on demos of the resources they provide. Smirk team members will be onsite to answer questions and discuss how to continue your company’s growth through digital platforms.
As an exclusively digital firm, we are honored to partner with Google as a certified professional agency, as innovation and creativity are not only cornerstones for our business strategy, but are also key elements in the Google platforms highlighted at this event. Google is a pioneer in digital marketing and has influenced many industries worldwide with their intuitive and accessible platforms. Our team utilizes many of the Google tools on a daily basis, so the opportunity to optimize our personal skill sets while helping educate Oklahomans on digital practices made this partnership particularly appealing.
Tools used in digital marketing are constantly changing and upgrading, and Google AdWords is one of the platforms that rolled a new look recently. The marketing world is a digital playground, and AdWords is one of the most important tools available today. Each client strategist on the Smirk team is a certified AdWords professional and many of us utilize its various functionalities on a daily basis. However, in the digital marketing world, staying up-to-date is crucial to your success, and Google’s newest version of AdWords makes continual learning accessible to all professionals.
We are extending an open invitation to anyone in the OKC area with an interest in learning digital marketing to be our guest at the Grow with Google Oklahoma City event on December 6th at The Devon Boathouse from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Anyone interested in attending is eligible to participate. Register for the event here.
Storytelling is the best marketing. Have you ever heard that before? In the current age of media, it couldn’t be more true.
People don’t care for or pay attention to statistics or facts as much as they used to, mostly because they don’t translate well online. These days, the average internet or social media user responds more to things that they can personally connect with. Businesses with a strong and adaptive social media and online presence have utilized this knowledge and brought storytelling to the forefront.
Scroll down your Facebook feed. You will assuredly come across a video about a person or thing that tells a short story. Some videos don’t even have footage or unique content, but rather just tell a story through pictures and text. Yet these spread like wildfire across social media, much more so than if it were just a post full of text. Companies like Vox or Buzzfeed were social media pioneers in how they harnessed sensationalism to spread their works and draw people back to the site. Now, there are plenty of big companies who have delved into the world of digital storytelling in an effort to better connect with potential consumers.
The smartest companies know how to draw people in with stories, even when their company might not inherently contain a large number of interesting ones. General Electric Health recently created a 30-minute documentary, Heroines of Health, which tells the story of women bringing healthcare to their communities in India, Africa and Southeast Asia. GE has created its own social media campaign, releasing a one-minute clip of the story on a Heroines of Health Instagram page each day. In its first week, the clips have received a combined 250,000 views and 400 personal bookmarks.
Stories and clips like these allow companies to connect with the consumer on a personal level. This Rappler article just wrote about a recent marketing convention in the Philippines entitled #ThinkPH 2017, which put a large focus on connecting to the consumer through storytelling. Writer Marj Casal, who covered the event, pointed out how many of the summit’s speakers, including CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network Philippines Donald Lim, emphasized the importance of using digital marketing to connect with people.
“Lim reminds us that websites and apps are just platforms and that we should look beyond them,” Casal said. “We should focus on capturing the human experience so brands become more relatable and approachable.”
Stories are no longer strictly told via longform newspaper articles. Now, they’re prevalent both online and across most social media platforms. The ability to tell stories is quickly becoming more and more imperative for companies looking to better connect with the consumer.
Many businesses are stuck deciding whether to use digital or traditional marketing. Although traditional has ruled in previous decades, digital is becoming more and more popular. In fact, 2017 will be the first year where digital spending will outweigh traditional spending, and it’s no coincidence. Digital marketing has surpassed traditional marketing because it’s the smarter and more effective option. Here are the four biggest reasons why digital marketing is the best route for any company.
1. Traditional marketing, like print or radio advertisements, can’t be aimed toward a specific audience like digital marketing can. These ways of advertising are like guessing games, being thrown into the public with the hope that someone will be interested. Digital marketing, on the other hand, can be meticulously tailored to a certain demographic, which both increases its effectiveness and allows for a more individualized message.
2. Old-fashioned advertising can’t offer any specific information about audiences viewing your advertisements. A company could run a print ad, for example, but they have no way of knowing how many people payed attention or what kind of people they were. In digital marketing, companies can target from the beginning. Modern analytics allow for companies to observe their campaigns in real time. Not only that, but they can follow through potential transactions, which allows retargeting to the ones who become costumers.
3. With the surging popularity of digital consumption, people are reading newspapers and listening to the radio less and less. Even television has seen a recent drop in consumption. According to the Pew Research Center, 38 percent of Americans currently get news from digital media platforms, surpassing radio and print at 25 and 20 percent, respectively. The most successful marketing campaigns are those that reach the most eyeballs. These days, current trends indicate that those eyeballs are online, and those trends only continue to increase.
4. Traditional advertising can be costly. Companies can pay thousands of dollars for a commercial, for example, just for the opportunity of a positive result. Additionally, commercial costs can fluctuate based on the length and the air time, so many commercials will get placed in unfavorable time slots if companies aren’t willing to pay big money. With digital marketing, the buy is more affordable. It can reach hundreds of thousands of people using online strategies, with the cost as low as mere cents per each result.
In today’s day and age, the world is constantly becoming more online, and digital marketing is the clear path for success. Not only is it more cost-efficient, but its metrics and analytical capabilities allow for constant improvement and tweaking, as opposed to its more traditional, static, counterpart. If you want your company message to be heard, and you want to fully optimize your marketing success, then digital marketing is far and away your smartest and best option.