2018 has been a tricky year for Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg. After a few awkward stories relating to the spread of “fake news” on Facebook and how it may have impacted on political outcomes, it then came to light that Cambridge Analytica (a British political consulting firm that works with data to inform communication strategies for businesses and political groups) had accessed the personal data of up to 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge. The flames of concern around privacy and use of data were fanned into a huge debate.
For those that need a quick catch up on what happened, essentially Cambridge Analytica did obtain informed consent from the hundreds of thousands of Facebook users who filled in their academic study on the thisisyourdigitallife app. Where they ran into trouble, however, was with a poor design on Facebook’s part meant that Cambridge Analytica could also collect personal information on people connected to the survey participants on Facebook, without their informed consent.
Mark Zuckerberg quickly issued an apology and admitted that Facebook had not done enough to prevent this scandal from taking place. But with many political and democratic implications emerging, this wasn’t something that Zuckerberg could apologise away, and he soon found himself testifying in front of U.S. congress on live TV in a bid to explain just what exactly Facebook did with all the personal information they have access to. He did a fair job at appearing open and humble, even asking for more questions as things came to an end, but his reliance on “I’ll get my team to send you the details later” did get a little tiresome after the twentieth time. For many young people, one of the most memorable things to come out of the testimony was, ironically, a hoard of excellent memes, with Zuckerberg “discovering water for the first time” being a personal highlight.
How was Facebook's reputation affected?
So, did Zuckerberg’s moment to set things right achieve what he presumably wanted and save Facebook’s reputation? Well once some of the less savvy members of congress had essentially got Zuckerberg to explain what the internet is *sigh*, they managed to move on to highlight an interesting point; Zuckerberg has been apologising for these sort of mistakes continually throughout his career as the CEO of Facebook. What makes this apology any different and can we truly believe and trust in what he is saying?
Several surveys have emerged off the back of the public questioning and none of them paint a glowing picture of Facebook’s current or future reputation. HubSpot’s survey into U.S. internet users’ trust in Facebook following Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony found that 45% of those surveyed trust Facebook less than before the congressional hearing. That’s significantly more than the measly 12% that trust Facebook more than before. In a similar poll conducted by Reuters that didn’t explicitly mention the Cambridge Analytica scandal, 51% of 2,237 U.S. adults said they didn’t trust Facebook.
Is it time to quit Facebook?
So, should we be concerned? Should we all abandon our Facebook accounts and invest our money elsewhere? Well let’s not get carried away. Although the #DeleteFacebook hashtag was trending and one survey suggested that 9% had deleted their account and 17% deleted the Facebook app from their phones, the number of active users is not thought to have declined. It’s still very early days, but let’s also not forget that deleting your account is not a permanent action. Users can reactivate their accounts at any time, and many will when they realise that most of their friends still use the site. So, before we make any rash decisions, it’s best to monitor how things pan out over the next few months. Zuckerberg might not have earned any trust with his speech in front of congress, but did any of us really use Facebook because of trust in the first place?
Despite all the bad press, Facebook is still the most used social media network for over 18s in the UK, and popular with the notoriously hard-to-reach over 55s group, making it a valuable channel for many brands. More important when considering Facebook as part of your online strategy is to ensure that you understand your target audience and how they engage with advertisements and content online. At equimedia, we create insight-driven strategies based on extensive customer research and profiling to ensure we’re targeting the right channels to meet client objectives. And yes, Facebook is still an incredibly important and successful channel for many of our clients.
Get in touch with us today for advice on whether Facebook is the right channel to reach your audience and achieve your targets.