E41: How Will the Facebook Data Scandal Affect Bank Marketing?

Facebook is in hot water as a result of the recent spotlight on the Cambridge Analytica Crisis. How will this affect social marketing in the banking industry moving forward? What players are poised to gain ground as a result and where should you be investing future efforts?

Michael Reynolds So, Allison, the question of the day for you is have you deleted your Facebook account?

Allison Gibbs I have not.

MR Why not?

AG Because I have no intention of deleting it.

MR Because you still use Facebook.

AG Because I still use Facebook, and quite frankly, I'm not as -- I mean, personally, I'm not as concerned about it because the information that I have on Facebook is easily accessible anywhere else so --

MR So why are other people deleting their Facebook accounts?

AG Because I think that they're kind of freaked out by the recent -- I think, maybe, I don't know, revelation that --

MR Quote, "revelation."

AG -- they are -- that maybe more data is accessible than anybody thought it was.

MR [laughs] So let's back up a little bit. Tell me about today's Facebook -- today's -- really, this week's, past couple weeks -- the current Facebook scandal. Tell me what happened.

AG It was revealed by a former employee of a company called Cambridge Analytica, his name is Chris Wylie, that, basically, Facebook allowed the access of information, a lot of information, from people's personal profiles to be accessed via their API, at one point in time. And it was used by Cambridge -- or allegedly. I guess I need to talk in legal terms here because nothing's been proven. But allegedly that they used this data, that Cambridge Analytica in conjunction with a third-party application builder, that they were able to gather this data and then use it for the political campaigns in 2016.

And so, taking a step back and taking a look at it, what we know is that at one point in time, Facebook's API was way more open than it is now. They had way more information available. When you have an API available that you can access data, in the majority of cases, you'll have some information you have access to and you have some information that you don't have access to. HubSpot has an API; Salesforce has an API. Probably the majority of the pieces of software that you guys are using on a regular basis has some sort of API that you can connect one system to another. In this case, Facebook -- before 2015, their API was just way more open and they got a lot of flack from that, several years before that, for basically having the availability of data in conjunction with people's privacy settings and how people can share information and who can see what and all that jazz. In 2015, we know that they changed their API settings, but that wasn't -- basically before Cambridge Analytica and this other company had an opportunity to gather a bunch of information to then use it to maybe share some misinformation during the election.

MR Are you alluding to the Russians?

AG I mean, I -- nobody's said where the data went in this case, but the whistleblower basically said in front of Parliament, quoted, that he said all of this stuff. And this is me paraphrasing, that they basically were able to take the traits from their profiles and then put together different personalities and identify the people that would believe, maybe, some of the more outlandish information, maybe might be more likely to think on a conspiracy theory basis, maybe pay attention and share things that a neurotypical individual would not -- or a rational individual would not pay attention to and then share that. It was a really sophisticated campaign according to him. We don't know if that actually happened or not, but that was his statement.

MR People are reacting pretty badly to this scandal, I think.

AG Well, I mean, their -- Facebook's share has plummeted --

MR Yeah, well.

AG -- quite a bit. So if you have a Facebook investment, I feel really bad for you.

MR Or now might be the best time. You never know. Stocks go up and down.

AG I'd probably wait a couple more weeks. I don’t think this is done yet.

MR Elon Musk, for example, shut down both of his companies' Facebook pages, right?

AG Um-hmm. That's true.

MR That was a pretty, I guess, significant turn of events. Very prominent company, obviously -- or two companies cutting off Facebook altogether. Yeah, people are reacting pretty badly to this. A lot of people are --

AG Yes --

MR No, go ahead.

AG No, go ahead; go ahead.

MR A lot of people are deleting their Facebook accounts. There's a hashtag -- what is it? Deletefacebook or something.

AG Yeah, it is deletefacebook, yeah.

MR Yeah.

AG Part of what is so alarming about this is just the sheer amount of information that they were able to gather on individuals, and so in a lot of cases, what -- and who knows? This is just one instance, so who knows where else this was happening? That's the real, I think, question right now, which is why I think this is just the beginning of it. Because this is just one application that we're talking about.

But if you have used your Facebook account, your personal Facebook account, to connect to a third-party application -- and that includes all of those little fun games that everybody likes, like what's your leprechaun name? and what's your personality? test. Well, that's what this application was that was gathering your data, was a personality test that you connected your Facebook information to. And what we know is that they had access to your friend information pending the privacy settings on your Friends list. So you were unknowingly -- or individuals were unknowingly putting their Friends list at risk -- that information at risk without their consent. And so that's where all of that stuff is coming into play. Because here -- let's all be very realistic and very honest: Everybody is tracking your information. Everybody. It's happening.

MR Google, LinkedIn, Facebook --

AG Google --

MR -- Amazon

AG -- LinkedIn. I mean, if you've got an Amazon Echo at your house -- there is data about you. This is exactly why, when you go to Amazon, and you look for something and then you see it in an advertisement later, that's the tracking. That's the kind of tracking that we're talking about here. Tracking of data. And so --

MR To be fair, that's the kind of tracking we help our clients do as well.

AG Exactly. I mean, here's the thing. I personally -- I was telling my husband this earlier today because he was asking what we were going to take about on the podcast today -- and I said, I personally love -- I love the personalized experience. I love being able to offer that to people. I think that that is what provides a good user experience for our end user on the whole and a strong multi-channel campaign. I really believe in that. But when the data -- when you trust somebody with information and you feel as if they have maybe misused it, or in this case -- what I can't tell -- because it's Facebook, and who knows, and Mark Zuckerberg likes to get up and apologize and put his big apologies online and what have you -- what I can't tell is did they intentionally not do something? Did they wait too long intentionally before they closed down the API? Why weren't they paying more attention to the third-party applications? I think that's the question right now.

And then the other side of this is that the Facebook Messenger app for Android users, it was collecting things like your text message data and your calling data, which they say that you had to opt in for it. I don't have an Android device, so I don't know what the opt-in procedure was like when you downloaded Messenger, but that's kind of freaky. Now, iPhone users are maybe a little more protected from that because a lot of that data's encrypted -- at least iMessage is. But, yeah. Kind of weird.

MR Yeah, so in terms of how we react to this as marketers: In the banking industry specifically, which is obviously highly regulated, highly security focused, highly security conscious, I think this is probably going to have a bigger impact even. Because we've even talked to clients who are concerned about How much can I profile people? and How much does that fit into compliance? etc. So that's a different discussion for a different day, probably with some different experts.

But, in general, are you seeing a market shift away from social a bit more and more focused on diversification? Or are you seeing that -- do you think anybody's going to care about this from a marketing standpoint?

AG Well, I think they should because I -- we get a lot of questions on a regular basis about What social profiles should we have? or If we can only choose one, which one should we be on? Like I mentioned earlier, I think a very strong multi-channel campaign is what's going to be most effective across the board for financial institutions. And so that includes investing in your website, there could be some sort of direct mail piece to this. I know you don't always like direct mail, but if it's done in a very targeted manner --

MR Well, if it's done well, I'm okay with it.

AG Yes, if it's done in a very targeted manner --

MR I just hate the tacky direct mail.

AG But, doing it in a targeted manner requires you to have that data, and you have to get that data from somewhere and it's people tracking. You can get this data. It's not just Facebook. I want to be very clear about that.

MR It's just fun to hate on Facebook because they're the biggest.

AG Well, but I also -- it's just -- I think because of everything that happened in the 2016 presidential election and the part that everybody believes that Facebook played in that, I think that's where this is all getting messy and manipulating data and all that good stuff -- or manipulating end users, that's the icky part of this.

Back to the diversification: yes, diversification. You have -- oh my gosh, Michael's trying to take my picture right now and it's really distracting me [laughs].

MR Continue. I'm just capturing you for Instagram.

AG Oh, perfect.

MR That was a very derpy one.

AG Oh, thank you. I make him let me approve all photos before they go online. So the diversification just essentially means -- I got to stop and smile for a second [laughs] -- I'm so vain. I'm so vain.

MR Just don't look at the camera.

AG No, but that's what makes the pictures look kind of gross. Oh, yeah, that's cute. Ok cool.

MR Cool. Carry on.

AG Everybody will be able to see my picture on Instagram later. It goes back to what we've talked about before. I mentioned this last week with Instagram and Snapchat. A lot of people ask me, Should I do Snapchat stories or Instagram stories? Well, I don’t think it's an "either/or." I think it's an "and." What happens next -- because here's the thing. Facebook owns Instagram. Everybody loves Instagram. Who knows what's going to happen with that data. It's all the same at some point, and so the more you can invest in basically promoting your message in different social platforms, I think, the better.

Now, I still think that your website should be your number one. And we've got some data that we reviewed earlier from Jay Baer at Convince & Convert that basically shows that when it comes to website traffic, that we're seeing the shift back to website traffic from organic search is beating out website traffic from social platforms. Is that correct?

MR Yes. Sorry, I'm just finished the post on our Instagram account. [laughs]

AG [laughs]

MR Yes, in fact, it's interesting data because he's showing that for a long time -- and a long time being since 2012 -- that social was rising and overtaking search around the 2014 time frame, while search traffic was on the decrease. And the little lines intersect around 2014. They were kind of the same, converging, bouncing up and down a little bit for a while. Then around the 2017 time frame, sometime in that year, search began to rise again and social began to decline. And, specifically, that is traffic to websites from search or from social.

AG Hmm.

MR So there's a story to be told in there. Obviously, there's a lot of angles to look at this, but he's going through the points of why this is happening. And one point is reduced use of social overall. Edison research has found that Americans are actually using social media less, especially Facebook. So Facebook use is actually on the decline. And that's the largest social network out there, so of course, we're going to see a huge impact from that. There's also de-prioritization of companies and organizations in social algorithms. So the algorithms that are being rolled out by these platforms, including Facebook, they fundamentally diminish the exposure that companies and organizations get from those platforms since that's really hurting exposure. Also, less exposure for posts containing links goes with the algorithm. So if you post something on Facebook and it's got a link in it, that further suppresses the organic exposure you're going to get. And also, search is indexing more social content. So search engines are indexing social content more and more and better. The phrase he uses here is "Don't sleep on SEO." [laughs] Basically, if you're one of these -- if you're in the mindset like a lot of people are that oh, search is old news and social is the new and shiny, well, that's not really the case. Search is still very, very relevant. In fact, potentially, to some financial institutions, especially, could be even more relevant in some cases.

Now, we don't just recommend picking one and ignoring everything else. But much like a mutual fund or a good portfolio, we recommend diversifying -- you like how I threw that in? -- we recommend diversifying your social -- I'm sorry, your marketing strategy as well. As Allison mentioned, multi-channel. You already mentioned that in the beginning. Multi-channel is key going forward because if you just pick one social platform, for example, to invest in, you're at the mercy of whatever they decide to do or whatever scandal rocks their world. But if you diversify and treat your website as your home base and invest in your website, you've got diversified strategy that includes a good mix of everything.

AG And if you only have the available resources to pick one over the other, I would personally pick SEO over social media. There are ways that you can do social media in a little amount of time -- in a week -- but I think that it is more important to focus on social media -- or I'm sorry -- to focus on SEO. I think SEO is more like the marketing 101 these days, where it's just a necessity. It's not just a tactic that you can pick and choose from. I think it is absolutely necessary.

MR Really for both business and consumer.

AG Yes.

MR So if you're focusing on your consumer product lines and your consumer checking accounts, etc., the financial questions people have, the financial wellness topics, those are huge. And the forced b2b, if you're handling business accounts as well, also very important.

I think I told a story a couple of weeks ago about I was doing research on someone's website about -- a banking website about a particular remote -- oh, I'm sorry about a lockbox feature and I couldn't get the information I wanted. But if you put the information out there and make it accessible via search -- business owners and business people are using search on a daily basis for b2b research. Basically, I guess I'm saying I agree.

AG I wonder how the actual platforms, social media platforms themselves have affected this data of increasing search and decreasing social interactivity. Because if you think about Instagram, unless you've got advertising running or you've got one of the special accounts that you can have the links with the image or with your story, in order to link to something on Instagram, you have to go to the bio, you have to click on it. It's not as easy as it is on something like Facebook.

MR Yeah, I use Linktree for that.

AG Yeah. It's not as easy as it is on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn. And so you've got that. And then you also have things like Snapchat, as well, which are more things like communication and interpersonal relationship based, not necessarily sharing articles and sharing links and things like that. And then with Facebook, when they had -- what did they call their pages where they basically had the blog pop up in their own window, the publications -- what did they call that?

MR The interstitial --

AG Yeah, but I can't remember -- they called it somethings specific. Facebook articles or

MR Oh, instant articles.

AG Instant articles. Thank you, thank you. So with Facebook instant articles where it doesn't take the user to the publication's website, it's popping up in Facebook. So I wonder how the actual -- basically the platforms themselves and how those are evolving based off of user trends, how that affects that overall? Because I know that there've been plenty of times that if I've seen something on Instagram and I can't click through to it, I'll just go to Safari or whatever browser on my phone and search for it.

MR I was like Safari? But you mean on your phone? You get a pass for that. You have Safari on the desktop? I was like, No.

AG No, no, no.

MR Please tell me you don't use Safari on your computer.

AG I use Chrome, thank you.

MR [laughs] Excellent. Glad to hear it.

AG What if I did?

MR I would judge you. I would so judge you.

AG Why? You used --

MR Safari? On your Mac?

AG Hold up.

MR Safari's terrible.

AG We're going to take it back a couple of years when I first started working here and you basically went back to factory settings on your computer, and you were only using Safari for a period of time. Do you remember that?

MR To cleanse. Yeah it was a cleanse.

AG It was a cleanse. Okay, okay.

MR [Laughs]

AG So here is he is sitting there saying I'm going to make fun of you on Safari, and he did it himself.

MR It doesn't mean I don’t get to judge you.

AG A cleanse. Okay. [laughs] Oh, Safari.

MR So the moral of the story --

AG Use Chrome.

MR Use Chrome. Well, yeah, that too. [laughs] I do like Chrome; it's a great browser. But overall, moral of the story -- yeah. Facebook, Google, everyone's tracking you. But it goes back to -- yeah, go ahead.

AG I was just going to say literally everyone.

MR Literally.

AG [laughs] But I think, marketers, we know this. It's the general public that I think this is going to be really eye-opening for because I think that people really think that things are private. But at the same time, you're just as much at risk getting your personal information out there by using a credit card. So it's --

MR Those marketers. One thing I forgot to mention before we wrap up here is I forgot to go back to the story for the report that Facebook is going to be dropping partner categories as well.

AG Oh, yes.

MR So in the wake of this scandal -- I'm going to go ahead and say "scandal" -- Facebook is, in the next six months, they will be shutting down their partner categories. And these are examples -- things like are you likely to buy a car in the next six months, are you likely to buy a house, did you just buy a house, what is your net income, what is your net worth. Those types of things are available through a third-party data source to Facebook advertisers. And Facebook has now reported that they are shutting these down in the next six months. So one example of how these might be used is a car dealership or a bank might want to reach people in the market for a car, and partner categories help advertisers reach people who are in the market for a car, but also who might own a particular model so they can actually target those types of demographics. Those are pretty powerful, but Facebook is eliminating those, so it's going to get a little bit harder for marketers to use Facebook the way they previously would have used it to gather all that data. Again, this is one example of if you're putting all your eggs into one platform like Facebook, they can change things on a whim or they can have a scandal and then change things on a whim and suddenly the entire strategy you were using on that platform is gone; it's just disappeared. So it's another argument for investing in your own website and diversifying your marketing tactics. But I think I said that already, so I guess I don't need to say it again.

AG Yeah, we keep saying "diversify" --

MR Even though I just did.

AG -- a lot. Now --

MR But there you go.

AG -- remind me about AdWords. Can you -- you can track that same information using affinity audiences in Google, in AdWords, right?

MR You can. You can.

AG Yeah, so yes, you might have to give it up on Facebook or give up on Facebook from that perspective and retarget and retailor your ads, but you can still utilize the same information and the same data through affinity audiences on AdWords. Because Facebook is getting rid of that data right now, doesn't mean that it won't come back at some point. Now, if I remember correctly, affinity audiences, are those set up through Analytics and then those get fed into AdWords?

MR No, I believe they're native in AdWords.

AG They are native in Ad Words, okay.

MR I think.

AG Maybe we should ask Michelle and Jennifer.

MR Yeah, Michelle would know.

AG Yeah, we should ask them to get that because if it's fed in through Analytics and Analytics is connected to AdWords, who's to say that Facebook wouldn't connect with Google Analytics at some point to get that same information. I think it'll come back. Like we keep saying, everybody's being tracked.

MR Everybody's tracking you.

AG Yeah.

MR All right. Any more conspiracy theories you want to share?

AG No.

MR You're good?

AG I'm not afraid of my -- I'm not afraid of Facebook. But, again, I don't share a lot on Facebook.

MR So, again, you don't plan to delete your Facebook account today --

AG I don't.

MR -- or in the near future?

AG My friends need to see cute pictures of my kids and my hilarious gifts that I share.

MR That's true. Well, I, for one, am glad you are keeping your Facebook account alive then. For that reason alone.

AG Everyone can see it on Instagram anyway.

MR All right. Good to know. Good to know. Well, thanks, everybody, for joining us today. As always, if you have questions or comments, email us at podcast@capitalpointmarketing.com. We appreciate you listening. We will see you next time.