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The exposing of the data of millions of Facebook users has caused a storm like no other in the world. And rightly so. Much has already been written and will be written about the unprecedented damage to privacy of users, the plunge in stock value, and it seems that academics are already preparing studies in the spirit of "the rise and fall of the world's largest social network".
Surprisingly, despite the storm, it seems that the tech giant is not really moved by it. Following the said events, Facebook announced that the social network would allow users to edit their privacy settings and even delete information from our accounts. On the face of it, it seems that this is a long needed change, but it is still unclear how Facebook used the information collected about us to this date, which advertisers received the information and the consideration and conditions under which information was transferred. Moreover, even after the authorization to delete parts of the information is granted to us users, the effectiveness of it will remain unclear. Furthermore, it is unclear whether data will ultimately be removed from the servers. These issues, together with many others, remain unanswered and they raise questions as to whether this is a true statement of intent or a strategic media move aimed to calming the storm and the investors.
Whatever the answer – this issue is a warning signal to every company and business. This is not the way to manage a crisis. This is an example of building a relationship that creates suspicion, mistrust and mass abandonment of users. The new business world, where brands rise and fall at a dazzling speed, requires real, ongoing and consistent cooperation with customers, alongside with building trust-based relationships. Moreover, it requires the use of authentic and real tools that create value for the customer - and protect its privacy.
The change, evidently, should begin with the most basic terms. For example, the very definition of us, Facebook account holders, as users, rather than - customers, suggests a problematic relationship between Facebook and the public. The public that considers the social network a real "home", and develops genuine dependence on it, is not necessarily sufficiently aware of the implications of the definition, it’s price, and the mortal damage to privacy, which can undoubtedly be prevented or at least reduced. This is Facebook's time to share – as sharing is caring.
In order to promote this change, Facebook needs to conduct a thorough and deep process of customer experience. First, as previously mentioned, it is only appropriate to define us as customers - not users. Otherwise, the pace of abandonment will continue. Next, it is important to understand the actual needs of customers from the platform and what the implications are in terms of privacy, disclosure of personal information. Finally, it is crucial to ensure that users understand them. This can be carried out by adding one feature or another, videos, all which the social network is using anyway.
As part of this process, the social network is further required to provide its customers with detailed and accurate disclosure of the information collected about them, a continuous and ongoing option to edit and delete it, and obtaining effective legal approval that it has been removed from its servers. Some of these requirements apply to Facebook as part of the GDPR regulations that will take effect in early May in all EU countries, but should be applied voluntarily with or without them.
Adoption of such a policy by Facebook will gradually restore the public's confidence, and perhaps bring users back. Moreover, the change should provide an outline for every business and company on how to deal with its customers, particularly in an age of fierce competition and especially when it endangers the customer himself. After all, and as we have seen in the past two weeks, the era of captive customers has ended.