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Facebook is a digital marketer’s dream – and a user’s nightmare
Facebook is a digital marketer’s dream – and a user’s nightmare

Is it time for us all to rethink Facebook?

In light of the social-media giant’s business practices, data security breaches and falling user numbers, MANDY EDWARDS asks if it’s really serving clients’ needs – and if digital marketing needs to evolve beyond facebook.

I probably shouldn’t confess this in public, much less put it in writing, but I hate Facebook. Frankly, if I didn’t have my business, I wouldn’t be on it.

Despite the fact everyone is on it and businesses can benefit from that, Facebook is a place full of fake news, people portraying lives they do not live, ridiculous fluff posts and oversharing that goes beyond the boundaries of TMI (too much information).

So why did I build a business around it, you may ask? Well, Facebook is still a wonderful tool for businesses, helping them to reach their target audience directly, and that’s what I enjoy most about it – connecting businesses with people.

However, I began to rethink the whole premise of this in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica privacy breach.

This was all over the news so I won’t rehash all the details here but, in a nutshell, an analytics company got their hands on the personal data of over 50 million Facebook users, without their knowledge or permission, and used it to create highly-targeted ads. These ads helped influence the 2016 US election as well as the UK’s Brexit vote.

This is your information, my information, your mother’s information and your children’s information, used to influence significant public decisions... and unfortunately, this wasn’t the end of the matter.

Earlier this year another massive data breach was discovered, this time compromising the personal data – including passwords, comments, check-ins and photos – of 540 million users.

"Making money is more important than protecting information. Internally, Facebook is a hot mess – they need to right the ship or they will sink and sink fast"

It turned out Facebook had allowed third-party app developers to access user data and store it in plain sight on a cloud computing service!

In the past few years Facebook has also been overrun by fake news. Russian trolls have allegedly run millions of dollars of ads to influence politics, people have been allowed to target advertising specifically to racist groups and now there have been two huge data breaches.

As a marketer, we naturally encourage Facebook because that’s where the people are but is it time for us to rethink that and use a strategy that does not involve Facebook?

Blasphemous, I know; however, Facebook use is down for the first time ever and, in my honest opinion, it’s about time. In light of the data breach, can you really trust a company that allows that to happen? Any company so focused on making money will always have a real internal struggle.

Sandy Paralikas, a former Facebook employee who worked there enforcing privacy and other rules, was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “The people whose job is to protect the user always are fighting an uphill battle against the people whose job it is to make money for the company.”

Making money is more important than protecting information. Internally, Facebook is a hot mess. My friend and mentor, social-media marketing expert Mark Schaefer, had a great suggestion on how they can clean it up: go private.

Everything that has ever gone wrong with Facebook all started when they began trading as a publicly-listed company and had shareholders to appease. As much as I do not like Facebook, I think this may be the smart move. They need to right the ship or they will sink and sink fast.

Personal feelings aside, when working with businesses, Facebook is always the first platform we consider. Why? It’s the biggest, but not only that, it’s also where the most data is available to run highly-targeted ads. Why is that? Think about it for a minute. Think about all the information you put on your profile, all the pages you like, all the meaningless quizzes you take. All of those activities record data about you and that data goes back to Facebook to allow marketers to create those targeted ads.

It’s scary on the personal side, amazing on the business side – that’s how I describe it – and because I put the best interests of my clients first, and because it’s in their best interest to market on Facebook, then that’s what I do.

Still, the day may be coming when everyone may have to branch out and move away from Facebook and we need to be ready. In the meantime, if you are not already diversifying your social-media marketing strategy and using other platforms, this is the time to start. Look at other platforms where your target audience gathers and increase your presence there.

All in all, retailers should never solely rely on just one platform.

Mandy Edwards

Mandy Edwards is founder of ME Marketing Services, a social media and management consultancy. Visit:

DSM Pacific (Melbourne)

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