Facebook In Big Trouble – What You Need to Know Now

Top 10 things Facebook Doesn’t Want You to Know

There have been some pretty massive stories coming out about Facebook, the 2016 election, and your data. Below are some big reasons why this is trouble for Facebook and why this may spell trouble for your advertising. Let’s start with the top-line information:

  1. Facebook provided detailed data on 50 million users to a company called Cambridge Analytica.
    1. Cambridge Analytica was created by Steve Bannon who was the campaign manager for Trump in 2016.
    2. The harvested the data by using polls and digital surveys for the information and used it in order to impact the 2016 election, send out false news stories, and sway public opinion.
    3. Read more at Vox for a very simplified and detailed version.
      1. There is a LOT more on Cambridge Analytica and you can read additional details at CNBC.
  2. According to multiple reports…Facebook has known about the data issue and the possibility of personal privacy issues for 2 years [at least].
  3. Facebook’s stock has taken a massive hit of over 60 billion over the last few days.
  4. Additionally, it is being reported and acknowledged [by Facebook] that they are tracking phone calls and text messages by users. The massive privacy and data issues are crushing Facebook stocks and users are shutting down accounts over these issues.
  5. Facebook is selling your data for profit and you’ve digitally signed your digital life away so they can do exactly that.
  6. Facebook content isn’t very trustworthy. Less than 6% of surveyed users trust the content created by unknown brands. Excellent article by Marketingweek and the ‘fake news effect‘.
  7. 4 out of 5 ads are ignored on Facebook.
  8. According to Pew, the majority of Facebook users go there to socialize, catch up with family and friends…not to buy or be sold anything.
  9. Social media is the least converting channel of all top primary conversion pathways.
  10. Facebook changed their algorithm [2018] to show content that is more family friendly, friend-friendly and based on YOUR likes and dislikes versus big advertisers.

So what does all of this mean? Well, for those that follow Searchology…not much. We already know how to use social media the right way. We know that a healthy social media mix is important to reaching out and informing our audience. But from a higher perspective, this will force major social platforms to change how they are treating our data and what they do with our information.

This could spell TROUBLE for your brand and company if you rely too heavily on social media to get the word out or achieve peak awareness. A careful mix of content, information, clarity, and honesty are the primary needs of all social media users. Fill that gap…win social media. Yes, nearly 50% of Internet users are getting their news from social…however, we are reaching a point where promoted stories will be ignored, brands will be switched off, and ‘friends’ will be unfollowed as well.

Watch this space, dear readers. Watch closely. No reason for panic…but every reason to use critical thinking moving forward.


Russia used Facebook to Market Fake News

Facebook Sold $100K to Russian Trolls

Multiple news organizations are reporting that Russian operatives and ‘troll farms’ worked together and intentionally targeted specific groups of individuals with fake news stories. This news seems to support multiple investigations, by U.S. intelligence agencies, that Russia interfered with the 2016 US presidential election. Adding to the current political environment, political influence by foreign agents or entities is against federal law.

According to reports from the Washington Post, The Independent, and others, Russian ‘trolls’ used multiple Facebook accounts to circulate fake news stories and promote those profiles by way of $100,000 ad spend. It is apparent, based on U.S. intelligence investigations and recent reporting that Russian operatives did use social media and fake news to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

There is little evidence that directly shows how influential Facebook is with users. However, some simple statistics suggest that social media has a massive impact on the zeitgeist that propelled the results of 2016 electoral process and end-result. The primary goal was to sew confusion, obfuscate the truth, and drive chaos during the election…and after.

According to a report from Pew Research, 62% of U.S. adults get their news from social media sites. As of 2016, there were an estimated 197.7 million users [Source: Sttista.com] and 200 million registered voters in 2016 [Source: Politico.com]. It is very easy to assume that if fake news stories took hold, it would be very difficult to stop the ground swell.

Also consider some of the top fake news headlines swimming around Facebook in 2016:

  • Donald Trump Won The Popular Vote
  • Pope Francis endorses Donald Trump
  • Obama signs executive order banning The Pledge of Allegiance in Schools Nationwide
  • Hilary Clinton sold weapons to ISIS and then confirmed by WikiLeaks
  • The Whopper – Wikileaks drips out hacked emails – this of course is a true story but used to sabotage the democratic candidate

Thus, between the DNC leaks, email leaks, and fake new stories, it is very easy to sway political opinions when some facts are backed by worse false news. Yellow journalism has been around since print but fake news is the new alternate fact machine that people can use to support their unfounded and uneducated positions. Moreover, when the average reading level in the United States is 7th to 8th grade the ability to move public opinion from one candidate to the next may be much easier than one may imagine.

How Did The Russians Target The Facebook Audience?

Again, this is much easier than you may think. Facebook’s advertising platform is very comprehensive. You can target by age, location, city, state, country, likes, interests, and much more. With this type of targeting ability, it is very easy to spread false and negative narratives with very little cost and very little effort.

In addition, the object of these campaigns was not a high bar. Operatives did not need to generate actions, phone calls, or completed contact forms…they only needed likes and shares. That is a much lower bar for a conversion metric. Consider…you only need to spread the word and sell the word. No need to have anyone buy a thing. The notion of a false narrative can be enticing enough especially if you don’t like the subject or party of the article in question. Thus, targeting a voting population that fits your specific requirements is very easy to find and easy to manipulate if they share your world view or have even the slightest disdain for a candidate, party, or individual.

What is Facebook doing about this…more importantly, what is the U.S. Government doing about protecting the United States from fake news, political hacking, and known Russian interference in the 2016 election?

Facebook, according to the Washington Post, has shut down the accounts that were active and plan to remain ‘vigilant’ and ‘keep ahead’ of people who try this in the future. I feel much safer and I am sure you do as well.

More importantly, what are the U.S. intelligence agencies doing to prevent Russian hacking, fake news, and corruption or our political system? From what I can report to you, at this time, nothing. Not a thing. A endeavor of this nature would require congressional movement and a signature by the President of the United States.  There is no disagreement for the ENTIRE U.S. Intelligence community…Russia hacked our elections, spread fake news to sew chaos, and specifically wanted Donald J. Trump to win the 2016 election. Now the biggest question remains…did the Trump collude with the Russians to make all of this happen? We may know sooner than we think.

So, my dear readers, how in the world does this have anything to do with digital marketing and advertising? It has everything to do with it. The trust all of us have in the ‘4th estate’ [the media], the importance of a free press, and our collective reliability on sources that can truly investigate what is true and what is not is paramount to our digital freedom. Donald J. Trump continues to call the press, “fake news” and “is the enemy of the American people.”

With so many of us reliant on social media for our news…what are we to believe? If we cannot trust our press then who can we trust? Our president? Our government agencies? Our Fortune 500 business leaders? Our local business leaders? The second we lose faith in news organizations and media entities that allow [or disallow] news stories…it is the very moment the fabric of our free society begins to shake and crumble.

Thus, we must make sure we review and confirm all our news sources. Check them more than once. Verify what you are sending and from where you are sending it. More importantly, as small and medium sized business owners, what you post online may be more important now than ever before. Truth, authority, and honesty is what all of us need. Sunlight is the best disinfectant as they say…and it will do all of us great justice now and in the long term to consider what happens next.

Presidential Internet “Kill Switch”

The Huffington Post recently reported that Joe Lieberman is sending in a bill to the Senate to allow the President of the U.S. the ability to shut down portions of the Internet when needed. What would the President need to shut any part of the Internet down for? I could understand the need to kill the Internet for something like cyber crimes or CIA cyber infiltration but nothing else. Lieberman may have offered this up for consideration because of a major leak from Wikileaks (the U.S. is currently seeking the founder of Wikileaks for unknown reasons).  No matter the reason, this would be unacceptable for our Internet liberties, freedom of information, and our collective right to seek truths wherever they may be.

Currently we all enjoy the Internet on a regular basis, I for one am online up to 16 hours a day. I could not imagine attempting to log on and see the following notice:

Your Internet is shut down. You will not see Google ads today. You will not see your emails or pay your bills. You will not be able to waste any time at work. In fact, due to the manual shut down, don’t bother going into the office today, Don’t bother contacting your service provide because your U.S. Government is now in control.