While we clickety-clacked on our keyboards, relentlessly checking our e-mail and social media inboxes, Internet data tracker-types noticed something strange: For the first time in its history, Facebook’s ever-dominating growth suddenly petered out. The site added a mere 320,000 new U.S. users in June, down from the nearly 8 million in May. So why the drastic drop? According to this piece at PCWorld.com, the bad press swirling around Facebook and its security issues may have scared off Facebook virgins in droves. Even more surprising is that Facebook’s bread and butter demographic – 18- to 44-year-olds – kindly said “no, thank you” to the site. This coveted group of users was down about 150,000 from the previous month. The privacy story hit like a tornado, appearing everywhere from ABC’s Good Morning America to CNN. The fear is that one day Facebook may hand over user information to potential advertisers.
According to this Wall Street Journal story, that day may be just around the corner. The article announces a new ad platform that Facebook will use to supply big companies with your information depending on whether you’ve mentioned them on your Facebook page. For example, if you love Pepsi and say so on Facebook, this new platform will customize ads to your page. Some call it a brand loyalty advertising platform, while others are saying that Facebook is crossing the line.
But what does any of this mean for marketers and small businesses? Honestly? Not much. It doesn’t really matter if you ethically agree or disagree with Facebook’s privacy policies. You can disagree with the power of the thing. But Facebook remains the one-stop social networking destination for PR, advertising, client communications and campaign launches. What does matter is protecting yourself and your business/clients. So in lieu of hoping that Facebook will stop pimping out your information (because that’s not happening. Ever.), we have to thoughtfully post on Facebook pages. Running Facebook pages for clients means that we take care of their image and don’t leave them prey to a bunch of spam. For individuals, less is more with Facebook. Leaving off your work information, what you like to eat and where you shop will prevent you from becoming demographics roadkill.
But where do you darlings stand on this debate? Will breach of privacy bring Facebook to its knees? Any nightmare social networking privacy stories you’d like to share with the class? And, lastly, should the government step in to monitor social media like the FCC does television? Debate your behinds off below!