The Rise and Reactions Around #DeleteFacebook
FUSE’s Director of Content Strategy, Anastasia "Nat" Tubanos, takes a deeper look at #DeleteFacebook to help you understand what it might mean for your brand.
The skinny on #DeleteFacebook
The recent Cambridge Analytica scandal has brought about a wave of #DeleteFacebook activism. At this time, our research shows that the majority of these conversations are occurring outside of the US and are driven primarily by male audiences - possibly not representing the actual Facebook user base. FUSE does not anticipate #DeleteFacebook to create mass user exodus at this time. A few major brands have deleted their brand channels but we noted they also have retained other Facebook platform accounts like Instagram. Long term, Facebook will weather this storm - in fact, financial analysts are calling Facebook a ‘buy’ - as they see a long future for the company and presumably its ad revenue.
What is this whole scandal about?
The conversation around Facebook and privacy around user data is nothing new.
But this very topic made its way into global headlines the past week due to whistleblower, Chris Wylie, revealing that U.K-based political consultancy and data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, was given illegal access to the personal data of millions of Facebook users, which was used in the 2016 U.S. elections by the Trump Campaign.
This access to data came from a Cambridge University researcher named Aleksandr Kogan, who created a personality quiz app in 2013 that collected private user data [and that of all the friends of the user] and shared the data with Cambridge Analytica. The breach, of course, comes from the fact that none of these users [and friends of users] gave their consent to have their data shared beyond the app.
In a company blog post last week, Facebook said it knew about this breach in 2015, when it banned the app from the platform, changed app data access levels and demanded that Kogan and Cambridge Analytica delete all the improperly acquired data.
Last week, Facebook discovered that all that data may not have been deleted, as certified.
Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, evidence of similar user data breaches have also been linked to the VoteLeave campaign, which Wylie claims may have swayed the outcome to favor Brexit.
Yikes! How has Facebook responded?
While the tech giant was relatively silent in the first few days of the scandal, Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has since responded with a three-step action plan on how the company will protect user data in the future, including:
1) Doing a full audit of any apps with suspicious activity.
2) Removing app developer access to user data if they haven’t used their apps in 3 months.
3) Making it extra transparent as to which apps have access to user’s data, by showing a tool at the top of their News Feed highlighting these apps, and letting them easily revoke permissions to their data.
Zuckerberg has also agreed to testify in front of U.S. congress around the Cambridge Analytica data breach, and has expressed openness to more stringent regulations for the platform.
How have people been reacting to this?
After reports of Cambridge Analytica using Facebook user data emerged, people across social media have begun to urge others to #DeleteFacebook in response.
As part of #DeleteFacebook, waves of users have begun to download their profile data from Facebook (including some of us at FUSE), only to discover that the social network holds far more data about them than expected, including contacts in their address books, complete logs of incoming and outgoing calls, SMS messages, as well as a list of advertisers that have access to their contact information (advertisers that they didn’t explicitly “Like”).
However, the initial fervour around #DeleteFacebook has been short-lived. Our research on Crimson Hexagon shows that the conversation surrounding #DeleteFacebook peaked on March 21. And, it has been gradually decreasing as Facebook increases its efforts to reassure users of its commitment to protecting user data.
Having said that, it’s still very early and we’re still watching if/how users will shift their behaviour around the platform.
How have brands reacted so far?
Overall - many brands, like beer brand Carlsberg, have decided to continue pushing ads on the platform as usual, albeit with a little more caution. Because, at the end of the day, they will go where their audiences are. But overall, brands seem to be in limbo as they wait to see what regulations come down on Facebook.
Amidst #DeleteFacebook, some brands have taken a step back from the platform.
Tech billionaire, Elon Musk, responded the most boldly by deleting Tesla’s and SpaceX’s Facebook pages. Other brands, like Sonos, Mozilla and German bank, Commerzbank, announced they’re pausing all posting and advertising on the platform until further notice.
What potential implications are there for brands?
Facebook’s ability to provide detailed ad targeting, build custom micro-audiences, as well as derive deep consumer insights are some of the greatest strengths of this platform. But, these are the very areas that may see some changes as conversations around new regulations progress.
New user data sources
Many brands and advertisers have said that establishing a data strategy that acquires and uses personal data in a legal and consensual way (i.e. email/newsletter signups) has become a top priority since the scandal.
Brands have also expressed needing to be more mindful on how platforms like Facebook and beyond source their data, rather than leaving the responsibility solely on the platforms.
Limited user data = less insights and less effective targeting?
Regulations also mean the potential for limited data for marketers, from pre to post campaign. If the data becomes limited, it could affect how much brands are willing to pay for the ads on Facebook. An onset of a fully regulated Facebook may also mean new ad testing and ad spend allocations.
However, it’s believed that even a more regulated Facebook will still provide rich data for advertisers to play with, because of the sheer volume of users on the platform.
Third party tools, like Crimson Hexagon, only collects public user data from any platform. And most social media platforms are public user accounts, not private. So, at this time, FUSE does not anticipate much impact with data sources for those tools.
Shift of advertising dollars towards other platforms
Moving forward we have to be mindful of the implications of #DeleteFacebook, not just for the Facebook platform but also affiliate platforms like Instagram or Whatsapp. Consumers shifting away from these platforms can create opportunities for other platforms to grow. We have to consider where these “boycotters” would move their conversations to and if advertisers would be privy to those insights.
For example, the #DeleteFacebook conversation is dominated by males in the U.S (which isn’t necessarily reflective of the overall Facebook audience base). Assuming that males may be prone to deleting their accounts, marketers may be forced to shift some advertising dollars to reach that demographic elsewhere.
If you’re interested in talking in greater detail about how this might affect your brand, feel free to get in touch!