The recent controversy surrounding Cambridge Analytica continues to dominate the international news cycles, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appearing in front of the American congress being investigated in what has been described as a misappropriation of Facebook user data.
We could be witnessing a sea change taking a generation to be fully realized. But it is a change not only affecting digital marketing, but all digital communications.
People Do Not Trust Social Media
While awareness of data surveillance has been generally known for years – involving Governments, social media platforms, your smartphone listening to your conversations – there appears to be more cacophony than ever. Many marketers and businesses look at this problem and question rhetorically “they did not abandon the platform before, why would they do it now?” They believe Facebook can never fail. Business as usual. This is short-term thinking.
This is what Mark Zuckerberg said in his top-of-the-year address about the future of Facebook: “The world feels anxious and divided, and Facebook has a lot of work to do, whether it’s protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent.” TThe leading social media platforms feels it must take drastic measures to not only retain its users, but change the user experience entirely and this involves taking stronger control over the content users see.(The Facebook controversy) is bigger than all social media platforms. All digital communication is at risk. Click To Tweet
Facebook is right to be nervous. In November of 2017, a Piper Jaffray survey found 47% of teens consider Snapchat their favorite social media platform, up from 35% the year before. Instagram was the preferred platform for 24% of teens, the same number as one year earlier. Meanwhile, only 9% of teens chose Facebook — a decline of 4% from 2016. Generation Z has no interest in Facebook.
As long as the public is against something, it’s inevitable they will eventually move away from it. The wheels of change turn slowly, but this is not simply a single platform problem. This is bigger than all social media platforms. This concerns all digital communication.
So What Can Marketers Do About It?
For marketers who want keep Gen Z in their crosshairs, they must develop new strategies and most importantly think about why this is happening. Why the paranoia? Why the Twitter abandonment? While some may claim it’s due to a preference for image and video posting, it might have more to do with the appeal of closed friend-networks and a righteous paranoia towards large conglomerate social networks.
Marketers have a unique opportunity to get ahead of this controversy and use it as an opportunity to shape what we refer to as Data Awareness. The fact that we are being tracked and recorded without our consent has been ongoing for years and it’s not slowing down. It can all shift radically in the next few years once the public opinion is negative enough, or if the equilibrium of trust is tilted negatively by an unprecedented reveal. Then the change will be permanent.
The worst thing marketers and developers can do at this moment is align themselves against the public with declarations of “this is just how it is” or “you have no right to complain” or “this is how we do business, you’re ignorant if you think otherwise.” This will result in is the entire industry taking another severe hit in credibility and trust.
Here are two options: side with the public and address their concern, or educate the public on the value of big data collection and foster a opt-in culture. Each option must contain a foundational promise: we will make this better with your help. This is how brands and marketers will further build a more transparent an opt-in culture, and evolve digital marketing in the right direction while still employing big data collection.
People are demanding a new normal that’s better. Marketers of all stripes would be wise to heed this call to action.