Marketer’s Current Relationship Status with Facebook: It’s Complicated

In January, we asked: Is This the Facebook Apocalypse? Oh, how I dream of those days.

The recent changes to Facebook and Instagram’s API has shaken me to my core - as I’m sure anyone in the marketing world feels the same. We are constantly scrambling to keep up with changing algorithms and right when you think you’re in the clear, a breaking news story comes out to shake things up.

Instagram was set to lock down their API in July 2018 but instead, disabled many capabilities early last week. The purpose was to enforce stricter regulations among third-party apps, or developers, to limit their access keep to users’ data internal within Facebook. The new timeline was enacted just before Zuckerberg appeared in front of Congress about the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Why the Scandal?

Cambridge Analytica was able to source 87M users’ data through an app called “My Digital Life” that utilized data sharing between Facebook and their app. In the Terms & Conditions, Facebook overlooked the clause that stated they were entitled to then sell this data.

Oh, and it gets worse.

Although Zuckerberg knew of this breach in 2015 he failed to inform users that their data had been stolen.

The Russian-based company Internet Research Agency (IRA) purchased $100,000 worth of Facebook ads to manipulate the 2016 election. Although ties between the IRA and Cambridge Analytica are not conclusive, this could be the evidence needed to show how the IRA was able to acquire the user data they needed for their interference.

If you are wondering how you were affected, Facebook released a tool to see if your information was shared with Cambridge Analytica - click here to see for yourself.

What Happened During the Congressional Hearing

While Zuckerberg faced over 10 hours of questioning, some highlights that are relevant within the marketing world include:

Does Facebook sell data?

Zuckerberg answered, no, Facebook does not sell data.

Advertisers present Facebook with a target market and Facebook connects these advertisements to the target market via the data they collect through Facebook. This data is collected in two ways.

One, voluntary information that the user posts to Facebook, e.g. check-ins, likes, comments, statuses, etc.

The second way, which is the way in question, is through data scraping. Facebook uses your online patterns and interests to predict what you want to see for an enhanced advertising experience. AKA users only see advertisements that are relevant to them.

The idea is that Facebook users would prefer to see ads that are in line with their interests, rather than ads at random. There is currently no way to use Facebook without ads, however, both Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg have brought up a paid version of Facebook that would be ad free.

Is Facebook a monopoly?

Facebook bought out Instagram and Whatsapp - two previous competitors. When asked who Facebook biggest competitors are, Zuckerberg could not give a straight answer.

When asked directly if he thought that Facebook was a monopoly, he said, "It certainly doesn't feel like that to me,” which drew some laughs within a tense situation.

I found this question especially relevant when wanting to share my thoughts on the API changes and the Cambridge Analytica breach. Although the privacy concerns revolved around Facebook, I was still turning to Facebook to express my opinion. Although other outlets may be out there, Facebook is the reigning king of information sharing.

What type of company is Facebook?

Okay, now is definitely the time to listen up! During the hearing, Zuckerberg was asked if Facebook was a tech company or the world’s largest publisher. The exact number of people that get their news from Facebook is up for debate, ranging from figures like one in five Americans to 130M Americans.

While Zuckerberg responded that he views Facebook as a tech company because they do not produce the content, Facebook has a responsibility to their users to be regulating (yes, the buzzword of the hearing) said content.

What Now?

The biggest change you will see right away on Facebook and Instagram is with bots. These bots have ramped up inorganic engagement on brands and influencers. It is time to be reacquainted with authentic engagement.

On Instagram, you cannot use a bot to like, comment, or view follower lists. Bots cannot interact with user.

On Facebook, chatbots have been disabled. To combat Facebook’s instant reply policy on their Pages, chatbots were created to satisfy Facebook’s algorithm and your customers.

Not anymore.

Now Facebook has closed their API that connects chatbots to Facebook Message, however, they have created their own solution within Facebook.

Keep an eye on any third-party platform you have connected to your social media pages, as each one will be affected differently. As these changes progress, we will be informing you of how to counter Facebook’s new policies – stay tuned.


Carolyn Smurthwaite

As the marketing coordinator, Carolyn works with clients to ensure that their vision is seen across all channels. Her dedication to the client is reflected in her work. When she’s not at her desk, you can find her out in nature.