This is Bigger Than Facebook – What Our Experts Say About Cambridge Analytica, the Word “Data,” & the Changing Facebook Ecosystem
What’s next for brands on Facebook? It’s the million-dollar question on everyone’s minds. Both 2017 and now, 2018, have been somewhat unprecedented years in Facebook’s history. Beyond the “apocalyptic” changes to the Newsfeed algorithm, the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and now, the broader global conversation around consumer privacy and data, we saw something else that we’ve not yet seen in the Facebook ecosystem since its birth: a decline in usage. It’s the first real, measurable shift in consumer behavior on the platform, and it has implications perhaps, far more important, than the current conversation around Cambridge Analytica.
To facilitate these conversations further, we held a webinar on April 11th, led by our Group Director of Social & Content, Toni Box and Group Director of Paid Social & Display, Jesse Math, with the intent to bring these changes down to the ground level, and candidly discuss what they mean to our everyday lives as marketers and advertisers. To watch the playback, and download our Agency POV on the topic, follow this link. We strongly recommend listening to the discussion in full, but below are some of the top takeaways from the experts living and breathing this changing ecosystem each day.
- “This is not doomsday. This is the digital world evolving around us.”
Even today, the headlines will tell a story of outrage around data privacy, consumer protection and the “breach” that occurred as a result of Cambridge Analytica’s work. In light of this, it’s important to recognize that we live in the information age. The incredible level of access, connectedness and visibility we have into our own digital lives, as well as our friends’, is a reality we’ve all grown comfortable with over time. We expect to see, hear and know everything – and, it’s all within our grasps. As an industry, we are now getting to watch ourselves publicly through the events and the conversations happening in Washington. This is bigger than Facebook alone, and as we continue to evolve in our efforts to further protect consumer data, and discern responsibility, we must also take the time to educate our customers. Rebuilding consumer confidence starts with clarity and transparency around their personal information online, and how it’s used, as well as the value exchange that enables personalized experiences. The more we prove that value, and the more we can educate consumers on the ability to have a say in their digital experiences, the more beneficial the ecosystem will be to everyone.
- Facebook is shifting back to its original mission: connecting the world.
The Newsfeed is dramatically changing, and this will subsequently result in a reduction of time spent with Facebook’s platform. Why the changes in the first place? Facebook is meant to be a place for people to engage with their communities, find the content they love, and share in meaningful interactions and experiences with brands, family and friends. The changes to the Newsfeed address this original mission, and reflect on the fact that we’ve strayed from it over time. And as Facebook moves towards encouraging more conversation between users, rather than interactions with content, the ad space will become increasingly competitive. As advertisers, we will be challenged to provide content and brand experiences that enrich relationships and conversations between people – we know, for sure, that this type of content will be prioritized. We will also be challenged to strengthen our targeting methods, and create with people, and not placements, in mind.
- Now is the time to get sharper with your first-party data.
While only time will tell exactly what changes will be coming to Facebook’s overall data policies, we know that within the next six months, Facebook has plans to discontinue its Partner Categories service. The announcement resulted in widespread concern and confusion amongst marketers, particularly for those that rely heavily on the use of third-party data for Custom Audiences. What the change boils down to, is that advertisers will still be permitted to use third-party data on Facebook, provided that they legally acquire that data outside of Facebook’s platform. We anticipate a tool will become available in the future that will require advertisers to verify the legality and consumer “opt-ins” for use of the data. This being said, the changes create an added necessity to build up your first-party data, and get smarter with the data available to your through Facebook’s native tools. Strategies like lead generation ads, or increased usage of Messenger, will become important in the ramp up on first-party data. And in many scenarios, first-party data is actually your best weapon.
- The Cambridge Analytica scandal has uncovered a need for clarity and definition around “data”, and how it’s used for advertising purposes on Facebook.
While not a breach of data, Cambridge Analytica caused a breach of consumer trust, and increasing concern around how data is obtained and used – not only on Facebook, but across all digital platforms. On Facebook, user data is never exposed, and is always anonymized; meaning that, advertisers have the ability to target those with similar interests to their audience criteria, all of which is carried out within the platform, and only with the data made public by users. As advertisers, we don’t buy consumer data on Facebook. Rather, we use Facebook’s range of tools to identity and activate what’s relevant to different audiences, with the intent to create personalized and relationship-building experiences between brands and consumers.
- While we’re not changing our investments on Facebook, diversifying your strategy is always important to consider.
The scale, reach and use of Facebook is unprecedented, which is why our strategy on the platform won’t involve any dramatic changes. It’s our job to stay in touch with overall consumer behavior, as well as the performance of our brands and their unique audiences. While we haven’t detected any trends that suggest a decline in engagement in client programs, tying your strategy to one single platform isn’t ever our best recommendation. Rather, tap into a variety of social platforms and their targeting capabilities, and look to continuously develop your creative and audience strategy by viewing every campaign as a new opportunity to test, and improve your approach.