It’s perhaps not surprising that the Cambridge Analytica scandal did serious damage to the trust that many Americans have in Facebook.
Nearly two-thirds of social media users – 65 percent – are familiar with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which has become the embodiment of people’s eroding trust in social media. Some 44 percent of those users view Facebook more negatively as a result of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, according to a recent survey from The Manifest.
What’s important to remember is that just because people view Facebook more negatively does not necessarily mean they have abandoned it. According to the survey, some 58% of people still use Facebook as often or more often than before the Cambridge Analytica scandal. A lack of trust doesn’t cause a lack of use, apparently.
For businesses, the reality is Facebook remains a hugely effective way to reach customers, and businesses shouldn’t shy away from advertising on the platform.
This creates an interesting dynamic for businesses, which still need to engage customers on Facebook but need to do so without damaging the trust customers have in their own brand.
The Staying Power of Facebook
For advertisers, the attraction of Facebook has largely not changed.
“Never before in the history of mankind have we ever been able to target exactly the person that you’re looking for based on so many metrics,” said Shawn Alain, president of social media agency Viral in Nature. “And they’re accurate metrics. They’re metrics that people have entered in themselves. They put in that they like horses or that they are getting engaged. In that respect, that’s even better than any of the other platforms – that ability for a marketer to target one of their customers is bar none.”
A big reason why more users have not abandoned Facebook despite Cambridge Analytica is the lack of good alternatives.
“Right now, Facebook is still the single best destination to connect with people of all groups in your life, be it friends, family, professional contacts, childhood, colleagues, etc.,” said Josh Krakauer, founder and CEO of Sculpt, a social media marketing agency in Iowa. “You really don’t have a replacement for a service and utility that’s been an essential part of someone’s life for a decade. Quitting is not easy.”
But Facebook’s continued strength comes with an important caveat. The distrust could reach a tipping point, particularly if some viable options for connecting with people emerge in coming years.
Find Alternatives to Facebook
Cambridge Analytica was “an important warning call to remind businesses that Facebook … shouldn’t be their only primary social media channel because there’s a large risk associated with it,” Krakauer said.
Krakauer recommends being active on another social media platform or two besides Facebook and building an audience on each. “There’s an opportunity to start building a presence across other social platforms and make a bold move to embrace that community and its features fully even if it’s unpopular at the time,” he said.
Working with a social media agency can help your business figure out the right platforms to use.
It’s also worth noting that the younger the user, the more damage the Cambridge Analytica scandal has done to the use of Facebook. Among millennials (ages 18-34), 41 percent use Facebook less often because of the scandal, according to the Manifest survey.
This compares to 37 percent Generation Xers (ages 35 to 54) and 24 percent of baby boomers (ages 55 and older).
“It’s a combination of the Analytica scandal stacking on an already growing idea of Facebook becoming more of an older generation-type platform,” said Keith Kakadia, founder and CEO of Sociallyin, a social media agency in Birmingham, Ala. “In combination of all of that, it has sort of stewed this pot of millennials thinking that Facebook is probably not the place for them.”
The younger your customer base, the more you need to develop alternatives to Facebook.
Build Trust With Transparency and Community
With consumers more wary of privacy violations, businesses should make a point of transparency on Facebook in order to build and maintain trust in their brand and keep from being similarly tarnished.
It’s possible that some users who have lost trust in Facebook, particularly millennials, “would be more prone to engaging with a brand that has clearly shown us what their targeting strategy is … and what they’re doing to not violate privacy,” Kakadia said.
The more you can create a sense of community through shared values with your audience expressed in your social media campaigns, the more comfortable they will be with sharing their information with you.
Keep Social Advertising Targeted, but Tread Lightly
People are still willing to endure advertising to access content they desire. Just make sure you know what the audience you are targeting wants the content you are offering before you start a campaign.
Tread lightly with targeted ads. Now that the worst suspicions have been confirmed, many users are on guard about how their personal information is being mined. They may react with hostility if ads that pop up seem too personal. To the extent possible, make your advertising seem organic, rather than obviously leveraging user data.
Cambridge Analytica Didn’t Kill Facebook
Facebook remains the king – for now.
“I wouldn’t give up on Facebook just yet,” Krakauer said. “The data is still showing that what businesses seem to see right now, which is that their user base is still largely on and active on Facebook.”
By building up social media alternatives to Facebook and working to earn the trust of users through transparency and community, your company will be better positioned to navigate the growing concerns over social media privacy.
Kristen Herhold is a Senior Content Developer for Clutch, the leading platform for B2B research, ratings, and reviews. Her research focuses on digital marketing, social media marketing, and advertising.