Although we've known about the issue of Facebook using our data and building larger databases by "letting" us use their login information across a wide section of the internet, we are still surprised by just how much data they have allowed to leak out of Facebook for such a long time.
So I'm torn right now. I'm not willing to pay for Facebook and that means I have to be willing to give them a revenue path somewhere else. If Facebook offered a paid version where all of your data was kept away from advertisers, would you do that? If so, how much would you pay for that?
I'm not really sure we can continue to complain about lack of privacy when we're unwilling to pay for the service. So maybe that's the solution for Facebook. Give people the option of paying and see how people react then.
In my original piece from 2001, I said:
See, I think we're dealing with the wrong question. While we certainly need to protect privacy online, I think that we should be focusing our efforts on how can we bring a value to the consumer that translates into a better online experience?
Right now, we all know that the focus of gathering information from the consumer online is for our value, not theirs. Sure, we pretend it's for them, but everyone knows better. Is it really a consumer value proposition that we can give them targeted ads? Is getting unsolicited emails about products that are similar to something they've purchased a value proposition for the consumer? No, of course not. It's a value proposition for us. If you look at how we generate revenue online, how much of it comes from the gathering, use and sale of consumer information?
What's amazing to me is that for over 20 years, we've been talking about the tension between the need to protect consumer data and the need for companies to generate revenue. Especially when it's for a service like Facebook they know we won't pay for. And now, thanks to the whole blow-up with Facebook, we're confronting it all over again. But I still don't feel like we're any closer to a solution.
But, this has also created an entirely new issue for brands using social media. I think that for many years now, far too many brands have used all types of social media as a proxy for creating relationships with consumers, rather than actually creating relationships. Again, I asked:
Can you afford to have hundreds of thousands (or millions) of square feet of retail space and all of the expenses that go with it, and just have it act like windows for people to do online shopping? And they may not even shop online at your store! Can you continue to support online social media efforts while creating physical spaces that are almost anti-social? Sure, open up your info so that I can get it on my cell phone. But shouldn't you also hire better people and do more to train them? And create better physical spaces?
Now, possibly really for the first time, consumers are starting to question their relationship with Facebook and we haven't really started talking about how this will impact brands. If you have a real relationship with your consumers, then you'll move to whatever, if anything, comes after Facebook. But if you've put all of your relationship efforts into Facebook, then you're at the mercy of what happens to them. I'm concerned that consumers will feel that all the companies that use Facebook are not trustworthy with their data.
I'm a big fan of the importance of physical place and, as we see when we put our faith in third parties instead of our own efforts, brands can lose very big. Especially when those social media companies fall. Companies that have an authentic relationship with the audience will be fine and will be able to adjust to whatever, if anything, comes next. But brands that have been cutting every other channel and putting their efforts into just social media may be facing some challenges these days.