Will the Cambridge Analytica Scandal Affect the Way Marketers Use Facebook?

“Facebook is a dying platform. It’s all about Instagram and Snapchat now…”

Ask many social media experts and they’ll be quick to tell you – Facebook has had its day. The social media giant has dominated the scene since 2007, but they’re really struggling now. Wobbling on their feet, about to crash to the ground in an almighty heap.

Young people are favouring other platforms. Fake news and election scandals have made us all wary of what can happen with social media and its influence. And the most recent controversy, allowing the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica to exploit so many of our personal details… well, that’s led to Facebook’s worst PR coverage yet.

The user statistics must be embarrassing for Mark Zuckerberg and his Menlo Park cronies, surely?

Well, no. Not quite

Not long into 2018, Facebook announced their Q4 2017 financial results and far from showing a picture of a fading behemoth, the numbers demonstrate that they are, in fact, thriving. The report showed that, aside from huge and frankly unimaginable sums of money flocking their way constantly, Facebook are actually growing in size. Their monthly active users are up 14% to 2.1 BILLION people worldwide, 1.4bn of who log on every single day.

True, these figures are a summary of late autumn and early winter just gone, so they don’t reflect the impact that the Cambridge Analytica story may have. But while Zuckerberg admits that the issue represents a ‘breach of trust’, on a ground level – will it really bother anyone…?

News outlets have been quick to cover and analyse the story. The general consensus from the media being that many people are now suspicious of using the platform. The debate being, ‘should we all delete our Facebook accounts in light of this major data breach?’ The reason given is that our personal information and privacy is not safe from hackers or even intelligence agencies.

Christopher Wylie is a 28 year-old Canadian data genius and the man behind the Cambridge Analytica ‘data hack’, which is thought to have had such a big influence over the 2016 US election. Wylie explains what happened:

“We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about people and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on.”

If you use Facebook, you’ll know that they have access to a fair amount of your data. If you’re savvy, you’ll keep any specific information about yourself to a minimum and refuse to allow third party apps to have access to anything too personal. Smart Facebook users aren’t really at risk of too much. But is it ethical for us to use a platform that is so lax with everyone else’s data and personal info?

Well, that’s for people to decide for themselves. It’s an individual moral dilemma, more than anything else.

But what could it mean for marketers? Well, it looks almost certain that Facebook are going to be hit with some pretty tough sanctions after the full story is revealed. Their approach to user privacy will be looked into and regulation and rules will be laid out and enforced. And that will soon trickle down.

At the moment, many advertisers take advantage of Facebook’s unique option to be able to tailor audiences. But the upcoming regulations will restrict just how specifically future ads can be targeted. So anyone relying on Facebook advertising for customers or web traffic may have to rethink their approach

The biggest impact will be felt by marketers who have mined user data via third party apps. Facebook have already implemented changes to how much information developers can take and how long they can keep it for.

But no major company that uses Facebook for advertising and marketing has yet come forward to distance themselves from them. And that’s telling. We think this is a storm that Zucks & Co. will ride and, to paraphrase Mark Twain (just a wee bit), rumours of the death of Facebook have been greatly exaggerated…

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