It's been a rough year and a half for Facebook. There was that whole election fiasco. And then the botched reaction to that fiasco, which included denials of any wrongdoing by both Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandburg, before finally admitting what every other news outlet had already reported. And then, seemingly for good measure, they went ahead and hit the headlines again as details of the Cambridge Analytica scandal emerged. While it's become obvious to most that trusting social media companies with our personal data is more of a voluntary risk than an act of good faith, it leaves social media marketing professionals asking some really important questions about our responsibilities in marketing on Facebook.
These Are Ad Networks, Not Social Media Networks
The main concept that consumers and marketers need to accept and wrangle with is that social media platforms exist to sell advertising. A social media platform's value proposition to brands has nothing to do with the ability to connect users around the world; its proposition is that it can connect brands to users around the world. In a business model that gives away its services for free, it's the consumers who are the products for brands. Most users, I think, know this and accept this reality. But now that we know that Facebook will do business with just about any sketchy entity out there, and that Facebook users (our consumers) face negative effects to their health from using the site, how much longer can marketers utilize this platform, and others like it, in good conscience? Are these problems ours to worry about?
As a Brand, How Do You Do Social Media Right?
If Facebook and other social media outlets won't impose safeguards on companies, then reputable brands need to hold themselves to a higher standard. Sure, there are important insights to be gained from utilizing metrics to reach your ideal consumers. I certainly wouldn't argue against using these insights for paid ads to ensure your boosted posts hits your audience. But the best brands will do what they do best; create incredible content that will win over consumers with quality, rather than through manipulation of personal data. If your company produces valuble, quality content, then you'll be playing on another level from your competitors, and you'll be doing it ethically.
So, do you want to continue to utilize Facebook and other social media platforms to reach your audience? I think you should. But go into it keeping in mind that social media marketing is an opportunity for your brand to produce and share quality content in an ethical way. This approach will prove to be an important differentiator for your company on social media, which will prove far more valuable the scraping data from unsuspecting, innocent users. Take the high road in regards to social media marketing - it'll pay off in the long run.
Wes is a Business Development Manager and Marketing Enthusiast at VP Demand Creation Services. He also likes craft beer and going to bed at 9pm. Follow VP on Insta and Twitter if you find value in our marketing-related posts.