In case you missed it, Mark Zuckerburg, Cambridge Analytica, and talks of APIs have been all over the news this month, forever changing how we access social media data. Here we have accumulated the conclusion on “what it could mean for social media marketers”.
Cambridge Analytica, a political data analysis firm, collected the data of 87 million Facebook users without their consent via a personality quiz on the platform. Then, they used it to inform voter-targeting strategies for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Facebook has also been taking a lot of heat for this after it was pointed out that Cambridge Analytica was able to harvest personal user data from the social platform due to a loophole in Facebook’s user data security. The consulting firm would later use the collected data in their activities to sway voter opinions via social media.
Using Facebook/Instagram data to sell potato chips or toothpaste is one thing. Using that data against the TOS to try and ruin a democratic election is another thing entirely.
Because of this, Facebook has been trying to catch its breath rushing to update its privacy settings and inform affected individuals. But the biggest hit for social media managers? The disabling of the Instagram application programming interface (API), severely restricting the data that advertisers can access—many social media management apps stopped working immediately, leaving developers in the dark.
So how will this affect us as marketers? Let’s break it down.
Within hours of the scandal leak, a flurry of tweetstorms with the hashtag #DeleteFacebook hit Twitter. Influential names such as Elon Musk (Tesla and SpaceX), Steve Wozniak, and Brian Acton (WhatsApp) have both answered the call to #DeleteFacebook. The hashtag is still in use today, though media monitoring data it shows us that its popularity seems to have peaked on March 23rd, with 15k online mentions of #DeleteFacebook on that day alone. But are consumers really leaving this mega platform? The short answer is no.
According to Facebook’s monthly active users’ data for March 2018, very few people, if at all, have deleted Facebook. And the SimilarWeb’s App Usage rankings suggest that over the past 30 days, Facebook has remained the most used app in the U.S. and U.K.
What kind of changes has Facebook made regarding user data after Cambridge Analytica?
Most of the changes that Facebook has introduced (or will be introducing) to their platform touches on user data (surprise, surprise!). They include:
- Removing the “Interested in” section from user relationship statuses: advertisers may no longer target users based on sexual orientation
- Restricting hyper targeted advertisements by closing the door on third party data providers. Previously, advertisers were able to hyper target their audience on Facebook by combining information from a few different data sources:
- Of course, this included data that the advertisers had compiled themselves, like e-mails and membership status in their loyalty program, etc. All the information that businesses keep tabs on about their users to create buyer personae.
- There was also data that Facebook itself had collected, such as the FB pages that a user had ‘liked’, as well as information from their user profiles.
And, advertisers could also take advantage of data from third-party providers (such as Experian). These providers would collect off-platform information, such as user purchasing activity, which Facebook then used to enhance its own data for advertisers.
How it affects the influencers?
Many influencers relied on third-party apps as a main source of income. Because of the data limitations, developers no longer have access to public data. This makes it harder for marketers to evaluate viable influencers. Marketers and advertisers will need to explore other methods of getting their hands on the information they need to create more targeted, i.e. more effective, Facebook ads & marketing strategies.
One solid alternative is social media monitoring (aka social listening). The data that’s collected by monitoring mentions of important keywords and key phrases can provide advertisers and marketers with an even wider range of information on:
- Hot topics and keywords to use in your advertising and marketing strategy that will get your audience’s attention
- Which influencers are right for your brand
- The cause of any unusual activity in your web traffic, such as spikes in the number of visitors
- What your competitors are doing
- And also help you discover new distribution channels (in addition to Facebook).
A new era for User Generated Content (UGC) rights.
The majority of social media marketing strategies now include some way to incorporate authentic UGC over staged content. But with these API changes, apps can no longer comment on users’ profiles for you, affecting the social media content management systems used to request consent from an individual to use their photo in a campaign.
So if you’re not already working with an app that partners with Facebook and still has access to the API, now’s the time to switch. Otherwise, community managers will likely get carpal tunnel manual searching and asking for those permissions.
A Facebook rep told that “for any Custom Audiences data imported into Facebook, Advertisers will be required to represent and warrant that proper user content has been obtained.” Understanding this is essential for your plans and will likely require revisiting your conversion goals, click-through goals, and more.
The Quick Strike:
For now, Facebook is safe.
Influencers aren’t going anywhere but keep an eye out.
Find social media management tools still connected to Instagram’s API and others that have partnered with Facebook.
Paid media will still work, but with fewer data inputs, it may become less targeted.
As social media marketers, adoption and change have to be our middle name if we’re going to keep up with platform changes happening at any given moment.