The Cambridge Analytica Scandal Has People Quitting Facebook but Business Pages Are Untouched
Facebook users are wishing they could hit the "dislike" button on Mark Zuckerberg after discovering their personal data was scraped by a third-party analyst for the past three years.
Initial reports revealed more than 50 million Facebook profiles were inappropriately accessed by Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm that collected things like user identities, friend networks and political preferences. Ahead of Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony over Facebook’s mishandling of user data, the number of compromised accounts rose to 87 million profiles.
As some individuals consider deleting their accounts once and for all, one particular subset of Facebook users have barely reacted to the Cambridge Analytica scandal -- small businesses.
Owners have proven they are not concerned about the data leak because Facebook is the last platform they would use to share or store proprietary information about their business or their customers. While some business pages may see followers leaving out of fear of future data leaks, the Cambridge Analytica scandal has little to no impact on a company’s business operations. Here’s why:
1. Businesses are publishing content meant for public consumption.
For small businesses, Facebook represents a free opportunity to grow their customer base and to boost their brand’s visibility. Small businesses use Facebook to show off the size of their community, fishing for as many likes and shares as they can to boost their page’s presence in customer newsfeeds. A whopping 80 percent of small businesses use Facebook to market their products and engage with consumers, unconcerned that their content is subject to third-party data mining.
Compare a small retailer’s business page to the average college student’s account. A college student might share what university she goes to, where she is originally from and even include her cell phone number in the "About" section. The retailer, on the other hand, uses Facebook to share eye-catching videos, links to blog features and lists publicly available contact information. Data miners can exploit information harvested from a student’s account for less than legitimate purposes, but there isn’t much they can do with small business promotions.
Unlike hackers specifically targeting corporate servers, the Cambridge Analytica scandal doesn’t uncover anything new about an organization — if a post is on Facebook, it’s because the company wants everyone to see it. As long as small businesses aren’t using Facebook to store or send proprietary information, there is very little information stored on a business page that could come back to haunt an organization.
2. No matter how big the scandal, people have a hard time quitting Facebook.
Led by celebrities like Cher and Elon Musk, some people have tried to boycott the social media giant by deleting their profiles to demonstrate their outrage. The movement, however, never caught much momentum, and the boycott wasn’t going to make a dent in Zuckerberg’s two billion global users. Community ties and even work obligations make it difficult for people to bid adieu to Facebook for good, and no amount of previous warning signs have stopped 68 percent of Americans from regularly using Facebook.
While the data leak had the potential to impact a business’ engagement numbers, small businesses won’t have to worry about their business page’s following taking a significant hit. In spite of the initial backlash from users, Facebook’s stock rose five percent and studies show only 15 percent of Facebook users are considering limiting their use of the platform.
Even if small businesses lose a few followers to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it won’t hurt their company’s bottom line. While 69 percent of small businesses feel their advertisements miss the mark, there is no definitive proof a company’s successes on Facebook translates to higher profit margins. For the 45 percent of SMBs using social media in place of an actual website, the absence of a mass user exodus from the platform indicates businesses can continue using Facebook to communicate news directly with their customers.
As more information about Facebook’s dealings with Cambridge Analytica inevitably comes to light, small businesses have little to be worried about. But the social media scandal does serve as a critical reminder to any organization about the dangers of freely posting on social media without considering who else has access to the platform. If small businesses limit their Facebook usage to satisfy just their marketing needs, they can rest easy knowing they are not greatly impacted by Zuckerberg’s big data problem.