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The Facebook Crisis: A Test of Trust, Purpose, and Planning

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Facebook isn’t going away, but the way people think and talk about it has begun, and will continue, to change.

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Unless you’ve managed to avoid TVs, papers, podcasts, and news apps for the past week, you know that Facebook has come under more heat in the past few days than it probably has in the past few years.

We’ll have to wait and watch Facebook’s response to the backlash of users and advertisers, but one thing is now certain: the omnipresent social media platform is facing a crisis of trust.

“Fewer than half of Americans trust Facebook to obey U.S. privacy laws, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday, while a survey published by Bild am Sonntag, Germany’s largest-selling Sunday paper, found 60 percent of Germans fear that Facebook and other social networks are having a negative impact on democracy.”

Facebook isn’t going away, but the way people think and talk about it has begun, and will continue, to change. We’ve already seen the writing on the wall as it applies to brands that share content organically, and those who advertise there. For some, it’s getting worse, not better.

What This Means for the Most Trust-Conscious Brands

Your customers, and even the general public, may have trust issues with your brand already for any number of reasons. Do you know if that’s the case, and what those reasons might be? If not, there are reliable ways to get those answers, and you may be on borrowed time.

But if you already know your brand is working to build or regain user trust, you’ll need to be extra judicious in your use of tools like Facebook, which could accidentally cultivate more of that distrust.

Now’s the time to ask: What might a skeptical customer think about our company leveraging Facebook user data to promote a product or service? Maybe nothing. Maybe something.

At the very least, this newest wave of privacy concerns is a wake-up call for better transparency and a more sympathetic tone in your brand messaging. If you’re trying to engage an audience on Facebook, remind yourself that these are real people with real (and substantiated) fears.

What This Means for Every Brand

As always, your brand will do well to crystallize what you seek to accomplish first, and only then consider the many options for execution. The better you can define your objectives up front, the easier it is to choose what should be pulled from the digital toolbox.

As we move down the path of social media with our clients, DKY will continue to take an especially cautious and guarded approach to the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

We won’t dismiss any tool based on rumors and headlines. Instead, we help our clients be aware of and understand known issues such as those creating trouble for Facebook right now. We believe that facts, a bit of sensible caution, and a modicum of gut sense are key to long-term strategy.

What Happens Next?

Facebook won’t be the last of its kind to shake user confidence on such a grand scale. This may feel historical today, but there are a handful of other giants who could find themselves in a similar position (ahem, Google); not all will escape this type of outcome. And those are the big ones, the ones we’d expect to avoid disasters like these.

There are many other smaller social media and data management tools that won’t be as diligent.

What will be the next major reckoning in digital marketing? We don’t know yet. But for now, take a breath and start with the following:

  1. Perform a mini audit of your existing social media landscape. Who are you trying to engage with, what are you hoping to communicate to them, and are these actually the right communities to be in? It might be time to shutter one of your accounts and refocus those efforts elsewhere.
  2. Don’t overlook the other platforms in your inventory. It’s tempting to make this a conversation about social media, but if we peel back a few more layers, it’s really about user privacy…and ultimately trust. Where are you storing information about your leads, prospects, customers, and even former customers? Are you ready to be held accountable for the data you’ve collected?
  3. Don’t get swept up in Shiny Object Syndrome and the impulses that come with it. If your brand has a strong, clear vision, keep that out in front of your strategy. Never let the availability of tools—even the most popular ones—lead your decision making.

Never let the availability of tools—even the most popular ones—lead your decision making.

This Story is Evolving Every Day

Is Facebook going under? No. Does this mean you need to update your brand’s digital marketing strategy? Maybe. Will this impact your personal privacy and security as a Facebook user? Absolutely.

Make time this week to read the articles linked above. And if you haven’t already, browse some of the recent headlines about Facebook from reputable sources. There’s a lot at stake here—for everyone connected to Facebook in one way or another—and we’re learning more about this almost daily.