“Scraped Off” from Facebook – Your Life at Risk – Take Control Now !
“Scraped Off” from Facebook – Your Life at Risk
Introduction – In recent conversations and surveys users are split almost 50-50 on whether they “care about losing their privacy” as a result of the Facebook breach. Advertisers should take note that there are reports of 1+ million users deleting their Facebook account and probably 10s of millions just stop using Facebook. Whether that is true or “fake news” is only relevant if the people being targeted by the advertiser is one of those who have gone away. This should be a “wake up call” for all CMO, brand, agency and others that Facebook will face a vast array of lawsuits, FTC fines and other civil and potentially criminal investigation for probably another decade to build your own platform. There are many approaches to this but the key point is “take control” over your brand because Facebook is proven to be a chronic and habitual violator with uncertain and only more promises by Facebook to fix. Click on image if you want help in exploring your own platform.
Growing up I would help my father scrape paint off old wooden planks because you knew that you could not put on new paint until the old pain was scraped off. In the new very interesting Netflix show MindHunter about profiling serial murderers one of the killers mentioned the word scrape referring to his girlfriend being forced to have an abortion by his mother. Both of these concepts are relevant to what is going on today with Facebook. Reports as many as 2 billion Facebook users data was scraped which is likely to be true. After reading more and more news stories on the debacle you get the impression that no one and especially Facebook knows what is really going on and as such like a hurricane coming to shore you know it could be bad but not sure how bad and how long it will last. Importantly, Facebook was not breached, it openly allowed access to user data. We do know that Facebook allowed developers using their API-applications programming interface a tool to come in via the back to access to user data. Importantly this is not a breach as many news sources have reported because Facebook allowed it and encourage advertisers and anyone else to gather or scrape user data for their own uses.From that vantage the goal as thought by Facebook was to give advertisers more data so if they knew about potential customers they would buy more ads. At this point we could go down the “rabbit hole” of the good and bad of “analysis paralysis” often found in many marketing groups. We could also explore about Facebook as an advertising vehicle which many think that Facebook is the leading choice for B2C-business-to-consumer marketing. Another slice on this is how Facebook has closely integrated their service with news, advertisers, and companies such as “like” us on Facebook or “go to our Facebook page” pushing viewers to Facebook rather than the company website. In addition, sharing data is another complex area that you see on nearly all news and corporate sites that allow content to be shared via various social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. Time to scrape off the paint and put on a new coat even though the wood is still the same.
What I want to explore in this article is impact and recommendations on Advertisers, Users, Company and Future Directions.
Part 1 – Impact on Users
Users rather losers have been and will always be just pawns to be preyed upon with advertisers wanting to just suck all the money and time from them. Users have no rights for privacy or otherwise and Facebook has made their even more apparent. Mark and Cheryl say they are “sorry” with more excuses than any teenage can think of for coming home late to not doing their homework. Here’s a good one, from CBS News, Sandberg admitted Friday (4-6-2018) in an interview with NBC’s Today show that “users’ data is the lifeblood of Facebook. If they want to opt out of sharing all their data, they will have to pay for it.” When she failed to address more fully is now there is proof that Facebook sells user data to make money. Facebook also makes lot of money at it. They are also certainly excited to sell more advertising and now the user has to pay for them to not do that for the privilege of posting your family outings, kids pics and anything else you happen to post. If you watch the movie The Social Network, you find that what Mark was really doing was tapping into the human weakness to think that someone else’s “life is always better than yours.” Coupled with our love of gossip and voyeurism Facebook reaches into human nature more than any other concept. My argument is that before you take the ride you should know what is going to happen. You get into an airplane or car and you know you might die but are willing to take the risk to get one from place to another. We do like amusement rides but know what could happen even though we hope it doesn’t. Social media is the same way but we are now only beginning to realize the real risks. Cyberstalking, bullying and harassment are just part of the horror. Few realize that everything about you is being sold or even given away by Facebook. Many have said that is ok to have their data sold in exchange for posting privileges. However, when they are faced with identity theft and have to spend thousands to recover their lives would they still agree to their data being sold again and again. Next time before you “like” something, you think about what that means. Social media companies are bringing the hammer down on hate speech, fake news, videos, newsbots and other hazards to users. Many companies are also stepping up their internal “social police” to rid their website and other content platform of such nonsense. However, like in food, cars, meds, and other matters, the Feds have stepped in to provide standards, regulations, enforcement and even jail for offenders. The FCC has rules for TV and radio and while newspapers have more freedom they realize that they need to publish in “good taste” otherwise their readers will abandon them. I urge Congress to take action on the federal level.
Part 2 – Impact on Advertisers – Ultra Disruptive Competition
Users have always and may likely always be pawns for marketing. Aside from the traditional 4-Ps person, place, product and promotion issues we can now add platform. Driving users via whatever means to buying is the goal, however Facebook introduced along with Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest, iTunes, Spotify and all the rest of them a new concept for promotion and the mean means for putting your product in the place where the person will buy. Old school marketing like newspapers, print, tradeshows and may still have value but the real question for advertisers has been, “where’s the beef” rather where are my customers and how do I get them to buy at the lowest possible cost. A more important question to ask which is NOT being discussed in this Facebook crisis is how are competitors using the data against one another.
In the great movie The Imitation Game at 1:18 about the Turing and his colleagues breaking the German Enigma code. Turing says when they know of a German attack and his colleagues want to stop it, he comments “what would the Germans think if we destroyed their U-boats?” Hugh Alexander responds, “the Germans would know we have broken Enigma. Joan Clarke, added referring to Germans, “they will stop all communications by mid-day and will have changed the design of Enigma by weekend.” Turing responds we have broken Enigma, “now for the hard part keeping it a secret.” The super-secret project was called Ultra allowing the English to listen in on the Germans and by building logical forms of communications guide sorely needed transport ships around the U-boats. The point is that there may be hundreds or thousands of companies who have scraped Facebook data like breaking the Enigma code and will be using that data against their competitors. That is, be on the lookout for the new ways companies (though none would ever admit it) will work to undermine and destroy their competitors.
The term sometimes used is disruptive companies like Uber, Airbnb, Amazon and others. That is, having the data is one thing, using it directly against known competitors is one thing but using is to disrupt markets is another. Ultra-competitors are emerging, and the players are often in the shadows and can also influence elections, events and most importantly how we think. Ultimately, that is the goal of marketing to get “inside” a person to get them to think differently (manipulate them) and then they will act differently. To that end, we will never know now or even twenty years from now what the impact of the Facebook crisis will be but we can say there is now a seismic shift in how we think about Facebook. Just like the way we think about Katrina, Columbine, 9/11 and other events have altered our think, this Facebook hurricane will change the way advertisers will attack customers and I do mean prey on them.
Part 3 – Impact on Company – Driven by Algorithm
Facebook was founded on the human need to connect, observe and share with others. From the days of family scrapbook to the selfie moment, people think others want to see inside their biographies of their lives. However, to get people interested in this concept takes more than a pile of pics as many such as MySpace and others have tried and failed. In the first iteration, Mark created Facemash where he used an algorithm to compare Harvard coeds.
He was punished for his efforts but that program laid the groundwork on the use of a formula to gain followers. The father of digital computing Alan Turing(1) spoke of this concept in his works on software which he also referred to a heuristics.
He called these formulas a
“table of behavior” for the machine (computer), dictating what it will do for every configuration and every symbol scanned. Each “table of behavior” can be different by each user. This is critical to understanding what Facebook did as they emerged. That these, algorithms or “rules of thumb” can be developed on a global scale as well as for each person. Importantly, these rules can change to engage and influence users and advertisers. Not just letting advertisers know how many people live in Idaho, who drive electric cars and support the environment but also let the advertisers develop their own algorithms to target and influence these users. Without getting really serious about algorithms technically at this point, in presentations to Facebook developers, Mark has spoken about AI-artificial intelligence in the Facebook product “roadmap.” From that vantage, we can surmise that Facebook is also developing more advanced tools to scrape their own data, analyze it and then present that kind of data their developers who also want better tools to target and manipulate Facebook users. Of course, unless there is a “deep throat” working at Facebook who will reveal this effort, we won’t have any real knowledge of this but no doubt, in my mind, is going on. Stepping back for a moment, every company gathers data from their customers and it depends on how they use it is the key. It is long known that the cell phone companies have trucks that drive around to check system performance to help them place cell towers to reduce call drops and other matters. Certainly, when a rock concert, sports game or other large audience attends an event puts a huge burden on the wireless network.
While not monitoring your calls, significant data can be gathered about what users are doing such as text, video, pics and calls. Yet there are no reports (so far) of hacking cell providers directly nor do these providers sell their data on customer usage to outsiders. Yet, it would be a marketers dream to be able to send a text to all the concert goers. Similarly, retailers want to engage with instore buyers and engage with them to “upsell” their purchases. By connecting with customers instore via WiFi stores want to gather additional details on customer buying habits as well as engage and influence (manipulate) their activities. The user might see something like “We thought you should know there is an instore only special on towels on aisle 5 and we will double your loyalty points if you buy today.” This where store marketing is going coupled with rewards/loyalty programs. Many think that Starbucks should rename it to Starbank because they are really a bank that sells coffee. However, running a business only by big data and algorithm faced uncertainty as a viable option for the future as demographics changes, technology changes by the nanosecond and predicting global socio/eco/politico issues of any kind are beyond any reason. Importantly, “weaponizing” and “harvesting” data by companies may increasingly be perceived by customer as attack on them. While some customers may think it a fair trade, VIP customers may likely shop elsewhere. Overcoming the need to run a business by AI is going to be hard but real marketing leadership comes from knowing when to drive a car when a bicycle will do.
(1)The Great Philosophers
Part 4 – Future Directions
I wanted to separate this from the commentary and analysis of the Facebook crisis. Regarding the Facebook crisis, one CMO asked me “what the fondue should I do.” I said its really simple, go talk to your customers and find out how they want to be sold, what they need to buy, what more can you do for them to stay, and be open to other suggestions. And, no surveys just conversation rather really listen to what they have to say. Certainly, you may find what you didn’t expect to nor find anything in common way that all customers want now or in the future. Marketing is hard and one of your other jobs is also to advise the CEO and others about how hard your job is which I call organizational marketing which I will address in a separate article. Meanwhile, one of my favorite stories was in presenting marketing options to the new CRO he commented, “I have a headache.” I commented, “Can I get you an aspirin?” He snapped back saying “No, this marketing sh-is giving me a headache.” This is often the reaction by sales and other departments to what they really think of marketing. Marketing is hard because there are literally an infinite number of options and combinations available. From coffee cups to blimps, stadium ads, TV and swag, you can spend a fortune and still be criticized for spending so much for so little results. Facebook was easy because of their reportedly yet unconfirmed 2 billion audience. And, until the crisis most people thought advertising on Facebook was a great idea. Now the cache of Facebook is over and there are so many other choices. One other CMO commented, “if I continue to advertise on Facebook will people think I am “scraping” their data?” My reply was to him and you, is why not build your own platform now makes more sense than relying on another platform. You can build your own algorithms to gain-retain customers, use to learn about trends and innovation, thwart competitive inroads and most importantly, protect corporate and customer data.
Bottom-line – Advertisers have always preyed about their customers luring them to buy products that ultimately will kill them like The Marlboro Man. Now Facebook just takes over your life. Some view “let the buyer beware” as a good business practice. However, society has ruled that there should be rules ranging from environment, health, transportation and others that are beneficial to the survival and benefit of all. Now is the time that “good social media” rules apply to our social society.