A lot of people have been asking about the fate of Facebook, following the news surrounding Cambridge Analytica. It’s understandable that people are concerned with the way their stock prices have dropped, but people have to remember one thing – this is Facebook we’re talking about.
I get it, nobody is too big to fail, but this is a company that has been ahead of the times from day one and has been evolving with its people. It’s unlikely that a hiccup like this will prompt any severe long-term damage, ESPECIALLY with how much brands depend on Facebook for their advertising.
There’s a LOT of speculation as to what Facebook’s role was during this scandal and how it should be held accountable.
Here’s what we know:
2007: Facebook was created with the intention of being integrated with other apps like calendars, pictures, maps, and more. This prompted Facebook to allow users to log into apps in an attempt to learn more about users.
*Consider that social networks like Facebook are meant to be personalized, so the more they know, the more relevant the content and ads they show can be.*
2013: Aleksandr Kogan, a researcher at Cambridge Analytica created a new personality quiz app, which was installed by approximately 300,000 people. These people all took their quizzes and shared not only their data but the data of their friends. The access to friends of quiz takers meant the data of millions had been acquired.
2014: Facebook announced that they would limit the data that would be accessible to apps. This also meant that apps similar to the one from Cambridge Analytica could not gather for data from friends of users unless those friends have also granted access. From this point, Facebook Developers had to seek approval before requesting any sensitive data from users.
2015: Journalists informed Facebook that Kogan had shared the data from his app with Cambridge Analytica (which was against Facebook’s policies). This prompted Facebook to ban Kogan’s app and force Cambridge Analytica to announce that they deleted the obtained data.
2018: Sources told Facebook that Cambridge Analytica might not have deleted the data and may have shared it for political purposes. As of April 2018, this is under investigation as Cambridge Analytica has agreed to a forensic audit.
While the personal data of trusting Facebook users could have been used unethically, there is no clear evidence that Facebook knew of or profited from this exchange. The data Facebook accrued was abused and further information is being investigated.
So what’s the deal with Facebook and personal information? It’s simple, Facebook makes a large portion of revenue on advertising space, very similar to Google. In order for ads to be relevant and not annoying or distracting, Facebook utilizes information such as demographics, life events, and interests to ensure that users have a positive experience with their platform.
They are, after all competing with other social platforms like Twitter and Reddit, so it makes sense that they would seek a competitive edge.
Facebook’s Role As a Social Networks
Next, to public opinion with regards to the headlines, we must also consider where Facebook is heading as a social network. Experts have been looking to Facebook’s role well before any scandals, and are trying to predict where it will be in 2, 5, 10 years, and so on.
So how will it compete with other platforms like Twitter, Snapchat, Reddit, and Pinterest? We’ll have to break it down into different categories and consider them from each perspective.
Facebook from a User’s Perspective
Here’s what we have to think about when looking into the UI (or User-Interface) of something like Facebook. We have to consider what people are looking to get out of the product and how they’re using it relative to competitor’s platforms. Facebook has made it abundantly clear that they are stressing emphasis on friends and family, which has hurt publishers following the past few algorithm updates. They will have to thread the needle and focus on what the users are interested in.
Cutting down on the commercialization of the platform has shined a light on what made Facebook stand out and grow in the first place, and that is prioritizing attention for people. So it will come down to the user’s interest in connecting with friends online. Reddit and Instagram have set a bigger focus on entertaining content, while Twitter is about news. For Facebook, it will be more about seeing what your friends and family have to say, which brings us to the type of users who are more likely to care about that sort of thing.
We’ve all heard the old cliche. Kids stopped using Facebook as soon as their parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents started making accounts. This is true, but only to a degree because people were eventually going to migrate to other platforms that had a better focus on their interest. This doesn’t mean people would abandon Facebook, just adopt other platforms for other purposes.
Facebook as an Advertising Platform
There’s a lot going around about how Facebook is using data. Is it safe? From what we know now, it is and the data is used for advertising and is not supposed to be sold to third parties, just like Google. As the news starts to blow over (which it likely will eventually), people will forget and start to use Facebook more. This will lead to more quality impressions and more potential to complete goals via Facebook ad campaigns.
One thing always needs to be considered, and that’s how Facebook ads don’t interrupt the user experience the same way YouTube ads do. The whole point of Facebook advertising is for the messages to be relevant and potentially useful, rather than interrupting you from what you’re trying to do (in YouTube’s case, video ads).
The next question is how Facebook will compete with other platforms. Facebook will still be preferred for keeping up with friends, while social media users will continue to choose other platforms for more niche interests.
Will Facebook Integrate More with Instagram?
As a worst-case scenario, Facebook can always focus more of their efforts on Instagram, their sister platform. But will they? It’s highly unlikely as Facebook’s platform will rebound after Mark Zuckerberg announces the new changes to promote more trust.