Last March, The New York Times released a report showing how consulting firm Cambridge Analytica was able to mine the data from at least 50 million Facebook users to impact the outcome of the 2016 presidential elections in the United States.
The leakage, considered to be one of the biggest in the Internet’s hitherto brief history, has stimulated discussions on data security and privacy protection. Apparently, there were cracks in existing data security regulations, with people wondering if social networking services such as Facebook could have done more to protect its users from unscrupulous data mining.
Any issue that involves personal privacy is always crucial, both for individuals and businesses. The common social media user will see it as a wake-up call to realize just how vulnerable he or she actually is online. B2B companies, on the other hand, will see this as a challenge that they will have to face – and they will continue to do so in the years to come.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is not the only one who is affected by the Cambridge-Analytica scandal. Business leaders, from big players down to millennial-run startups, will also be at the receiving end of several transformations in the marketing landscape.
And while it’s difficult to know the full extent of the scandal’s effects, it is still crucial to look at some of the most obvious ways the scandal could shape the way you reach out to your audiences.
Users feel more reluctant and insecure
The scandal made everybody realize the ease with which firms like Cambridge-Analytica can collect data without anyone knowing.
Ever since the scandal blew up and resulted in Congressional hearings that grilled Facebook’s top manager to his core, people have become cautious of their activities online. It came to point wherein a large number of people voluntarily deleted their accounts following extensive news coverage on the issue.
The hysteria over privacy will no doubt affect B2B marketers in a lot of ways. As more and more people call on other users to deactivate their accounts via #DeleteFacebook, we can expect the opportunities for audience outreach to thin out.
This hasn’t happened yet, and Facebook still retains a large following despite losing approximately $50 billion in market cap. This only goes to show that Facebook is still going strong, and the scandal’s effects were not enough for people to abandon ship.
Still, knowing that their data remains under constant surveillance, users will be more wary in terms of the way they engage marketing messages online, making it harder for B2B as well as B2C companies to reach out to their audiences.
Advertisers are holding on
Despite the setback, Facebook will still retain its core advertisers. With hardly any losses it has incurred in its subscriber count, the social media behemoth will still be able to generate revenue just enough the cover the immediate losses it suffered from when the scandal first came out.
Some analysts are saying that companies that advertise on Facebook are still waiting it out, pointing out that there is no compelling reason to pull out their ads and content and migrate to other platforms. What is certain is that social media is still a powerful tool in a B2B company’s arsenal. While it is still an imperfect tool, marketers and other stakeholders are looking for ways to improve its effectiveness without stepping over boundaries. With at least 89 percent of American internet users who are exposed to it, Facebook will still have its share of revenue from advertising.
Websites and other services are redefining online privacy policies
Privacy has legal dimensions and ignoring these limits can only spell trouble for any well-meaning business that wants to expand its revenues exponentially. A case in point was how Facebook lost a large fraction of its value as investors are turned away by the scandal.
But that’s Facebook! Give it some time and it will recover these losses. What is more important here is the fact that websites are learning from this setback and are implementing the right changes in order to improve user protection.
This comes as new privacy rules are being introduced under the General Data Protection Regulation. These rules will certainly strengthen Facebook and Google and make it harder for startups to market their brands.
It’s too close to call, but these development are worth noting.