Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared his vision for the company’s coming privacy-focused, unified messaging and social networking platform. The CEO said, in the coming years, Facebook plans to rebuild its services and platforms around the following six principals: private interactions, encryption, reduced permanence, safety, interoperability and secure data storage.
“People increasingly also want to connect privately in the digital equivalent of the living room. As I think about the future of the internet, I believe a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today’s open platforms,” wrote Zuckerberg.
After a long history of user privacy and data security blunders, a more secure, privacy-focused platform may benefit users, but what does it mean for the advertisers that keep Facebook’s lights on? We asked industry professionals what they thought about Zuckerberg’s privacy manifesto. Most agreed transitioning to a more private platform is a good move for Facebook — even if it means advertisers will need to modify their strategies.
Brands must adjust. When asked how Facebook’s new direction will impact brands, Brittany Fryman, social media manager for SCOUT ad agency in Atlanta, said the role of any advertiser, on any platform, is to adapt and change to fit the platform and intended target audience.
“This announcement from Facebook is no different, we just need to pivot,” said Fryman, “If people will be spending their time in a ‘digital living room’ we need to do a better job of cultivating conversations there. From an ad standpoint, the lack of data permanence puts the onus on marketers and advertisers that use data in a timely manner and then store, manage and organize it for retargeting later.”
Joshua March, CEO for the digital customer service platform Conversocial, agrees with Fryman. March notes how advertisers have benefited immensely from the personalization and targeting made possible by social media platforms like Facebook, but now, will need to alter their targeting strategies.
“As the world swings to a more privacy-centric approach, whether driven by legislation, such as GDPR in Europe, or by changing policies, like Facebook’s announcing its privacy-focused vision for social networking, advertisers will have to adjust,” said March.
Steve Weiss, another Facebook marketing expert and CEO for the Facebook advertising agency MuteSix, was not surprised by the announcement.
“The smartest advertising and marketing advocacy groups have come to realize that some sort of consumer protection from data misuse is an imperative. And, Zuckerberg is acting on this now,” said Weiss, “By raising the privacy bar, Facebook can shut out its competitors. But this also means it’s going to run a tighter privacy ship, strengthen its products and services, and make sure it’s speaking from the top with CEO-driven privacy messaging and strategy.”
Weiss believes brands will have to reconsider consumer engagement, possibly by refocusing on the emotions and behaviors of large groups of consumers — and how messaging can drive behavior.
“By understanding a few things about a target audience and deriving predictive learning insights based on this, brands can build personified campaigns, giving the right message to the right person at the right time without knowing any personal information,” said Weiss.
More 1:1 consumer engagement opportunities. March sees potential within a privacy-focused platform for brands to optimize direct messaging initiatives.
“While brands won’t lose all ability to target particular customers, the ability to gather information without express consent will become harder and harder, and advertisers should be ready for this adjustment,” said March, “With the rise of messaging over public social media, brands should be thinking about how to drive direct, 1:1 relationships with customers through messaging channels that will enable them to keep connecting with the express consent of their customers.”
Fryman isn’t as optimistic about Facebook’s promise to offer a more private conversational platform.
“I think Zuckerberg’s right that people do crave more intimate conversations and privacy is a huge factor in their decision to use social platforms. However, I think it’s going to be an uphill battle for Facebook,” said Fryman, “They’ve been in the news for the last year with data breaches and security concerns so to think that they’ll create a new platform that people use purely because of its privacy is a bit of a stretch.”
Fryman does have faith Facebook will put the experience of the user before advertiser priorities. “In the end though, it really is all about adaptability for Facebook, advertisers and brands,” said Fryman.
User needs versus advertiser goals. Drum Agency content strategist Ben Heiser doesn’t see a conflict between building a better platform for users and advertisers’ goals.
“After the Cambridge Analytical disaster, Facebook has been marching to a very public drumbeat: make the platform better for users. But a platform that’s better for users isn’t mutually exclusive with a platform that’s still amazing for advertisers,” said Heiser, “Sure, the idea of ‘reducing permanence’ could affect how efficiently and accurately Facebook targets. But the extent of that, if any, remains to be seen.”
Heiser said he is confident Facebook isn’t throwing away the relationship it has built with advertisers, noting the company’s massive earning report during the fourth quarter of 2018.
Facebook’s focus on privacy is the right move. In all of Facebook’s struggles during the last year, many marketers are still confident the company will come out ahead with its new focus on privacy.
“While this is still a work in progress, it’s a good move as it shows Zuckerberg is standing by his significant and systemic commitment to ehance the platform’s user experience,” said Weiss. March also gives props to Facebook for this recent move, and said he thinks its efforts to double-down on privacy in such a major way opens the door for them to become a leader in secure communication for both individuals and businesses.
“Security and encryption are incredibly important and it’s no secret that Facebook has been rocked by a lot of challenges in this area, however they have shown themselves time and time again to be able to reinvent themselves and make major changes must faster than any other major corporation,” said March.
Fryman, who is not as confident Facebook will be able to deliver on their promise, is still keeping a positive outlook, “As with all changes with Facebook, I think you need to take this in stride, be patient, see what happens, and then make strategic decisions on how to move forward.”