This week we saw a long outage on Facebook (as well as Instagram, which is owned by Facebook) where millions of users couldn’t post or comment. Facebook denies it was an attack. They insist it was due to a “server configuration change”. Yesterday, they announced that chief product officer Chris Cox is leaving the company. At the end of January and throughout February, changes were announced to Facebook, including changes in privacy policies and in advertising. And perhaps the biggest news was the latest privacy scandal that the New York Times revealed last year: Facebook was not only selling your information to other companies, but also access to your private messages! They are currently under investigation for these data deals.
That’s a lot to happen for any company in just 11 weeks.
But what’s it all mean for you, Business Person?
First of all, let’s address the elephant in the room: is Facebook dead?
By most metrics, I think we can safely say, “no”. Their fourth quarter report for 2018 had their revenue increase by $3 billion over the previous quarter. And although overall users have declined over the years, the user base is essentially unchanged in Canada and the US. Two billion people use one of the Facebook services – which also includes WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger – every single day. Facebook is not dead.
But it is changing.
Let’s talk about 3 major changes to the platform – increased transparency, privacy changes, and changes to groups and pages – and how they will affect you.
Changes to Facebook #1: Increased Transparency
One of the most interesting changes is a feature called “ad disclosure”. This will show you how an ad came to have your information. This is important for a few reasons. First, it allows consumers to see who is selling your information. This allows you to make decisions about who you trust with your information. Second, it allows you to go to your ad preferences and remove that particular advertiser from your list so you won’t see it anymore. And perhaps most importantly, if you are advertising on Facebook, you will need to consider where your data comes from or you may harm your relationships with clients.
Changes to Facebook #2: Privacy changes
On March 6, Mark Zuckerberg announced some changes that were meant to increase privacy. These included a shift towards less permanent messages and posts, and most likely, encrypted (secret) private messaging. How this will affect advertising is still unclear, but it isn’t an altogether popular move. If it were to happen, it would drastically change the way you advertise. You would have to grab attention quickly. However, it is such a radical departure from what Facebook has been that there is a lot of skepticism about whether it can or will actually happen. Stay tuned on this one.
Changes to Facebook #3: Changes to Pages and Groups
Some of these are pretty exciting. My favourite is that you won’t be added to groups without your permission anymore – you will have an “invite” that you can say “yes” or “no” to. If you were using this feature to grow your groups quickly, it’s time to change your habits. For some businesses, though, the expansion of subscription groups, which can be added to certain pages that allow you to offer paid membership content, is an exciting option. New group features are also coming soon, including offering things like mentors or courses for members.
Although the overall push of the Facebook changes will be to create an environment as initially intended – to engage with family and friends – these changes will affect businesses too. And we’ll be here to explain those changes as they come.