Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and your small business!

Doctor! I practically run my business through Facebook and am really reliant on it. Now I’m seeing lots of #deletefacebook messages and outrage over Cambridge Analytica, Zuckerberg is in the dock in Congress and I’m freaking out – what will I do?

Doctor Digital Says

First of all don’t panic. It is going to take more than some on-sold data to topple Facebook, and while I wouldn’t want to be Mark Zuckerberg right now, I’m sure he has a meme on his desktop that says 'this too will pass'.

Let’s quickly unpack the facts with some ‘Doctored News’, and then we can look at strategies for your Facebook community and beyond. As the story unfolded, it emerged that Cambridge Analytica, a research company in the UK, had used a method of data collection on Facebook which allowed harvesting of personal information. The data was then allegedly used by that company to model voter identities and create fake news to impact the US election and Brexit vote in the UK.

Many millions of Facebook users have been affected, mainly in the USA, UK, India and Australia. One of the key contentions was that Cambridge Analytica used an online quiz called ‘This is your Digital Life’ that people had to log into with their Facebook credentials. That login enabled the company to access personal information from not only the user, but all of their Facebook friends. It’s pretty uncool, and unsurprisingly Facebook users are not happy.

What can you do to make your customers feel secure, and limit the collateral damage to your brand and business? Firstly, review your third party dependencies. Facebook is undoubtedly a great tool to connect your customers to you in a social and conversational way, but no external product is infallible, even the mighty Facebook. You need to strategically plan for life without anything you depend upon that you have no control over.

If there was a mass exodus from Facebook or it was shut down, would you lose your most important asset? Any business backup plan should include identifying if you are dependent on a third party for your connection with your customers, and if/how you have their data captured ( eg in your own customer relationship management system). If you are relying on Facebook, now is the time to migrate your customers into a more intimate relationship with your brand. Step up your email campaigns, newsletters, blogs with comments open, live chat, direct contact, and other ways you can connect and have conversations where you control the platform.

If you are one of the millions of businesses using logins from Facebook, Instagram, Google, to create user accounts for your site, think about what comes next and whether you want to continue to use those tools. On one hand, they are a quick and easy solution to make the customer journey short and familiar. On the other hand, you are likely allowing Facebook to follow user activity from your site and you have no control over the blanket authorisations that Facebook requires for you to use this service. And you may not like what they are doing with the data you collect. This could be a good time to offer users an alternative way to register with your site.

Data storage, collection and retention will be a hot-button issue for weeks and months to come as the scandal unfolds. Throw in a possible class action against Facebook, and people are going to be understandably hypersensitised. You want to front foot your response and put your terms to your customers before they have to ask. Take a look at your privacy policy, cookie and personal identifiable information use and storage, and terms and conditions of use of your site.

This includes reviewing any other third party services you are using, like data storage, credit card processing, and other website ad-ons. Post up a message on Facebook and your website, with a link to your renewed privacy and data policy. You could potentially use a landing page asking customers if they would like to give you their details for direct contact as you monitor the Facebook situation and get information directly from you. They key part is transparency and ensuring that your users feel safe and in control when they interact with your business digitally. If you don’t have cookies and privacy explicitly stated, you should, so this is the time to get that fixed.

Like lemonade from life’s lemons, use this uncharacteristic major brand misstep by Facebook as an opportunity to get your own digital house in order, and to remind your customers of your core business values, and how you intend to protect and defend their data.

If you want to know more about how to lock down your privacy settings on Facebook there is a great article from Wired here to step you through it. If you want to know if you were one of the people whose data was harvested, you can click here to find out.

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