1. Education Through Notification
The most rapidly enacted visible change will be an increased focus on user education. Most social media users checked unread Terms & Conditions boxes years ago and since then have unthinkingly granted apps access to Facebook profile data in an effort to enhance co-op experiences. Facebook — and every business that relies on their technology — will make quick inroads in teaching consumers more about the information they surrender when connecting to socially-powered digital experiences.
2. Data On Lockdown
The major social networks will turn inward and become less transparent about what data they have and what they know about their user bases. Because the Cambridge Analytica scandal was a direct result of Facebook’s effort to offer fully transparent and portable data, social networks will be forced to limit access to only official third-party providers who undergo frequent due diligence checks to prevent misuse. Micro-targeting based on web and purchase behavior isn’t going anywhere — the entire Facebook graph is built atop pixels dropped on thousands of websites.
3. Paid Privacy
A freemium model is a no-brainer for Facebook — and Sheryl Sandberg even hinted it may be coming in recent interviews. Most apps in the mobile ecosystem operate under a freemium model in which users can pay a fee to opt-out of advertising. Spotify’s recent IPO is a business model built on freemium offerings — and granting users the right to remove ads is a step toward restoring the luster to Facebook’s image.
4. Regulation Posturing
Over the next few months, there will be no shortage of bipartisan grandstanding about regulating social media. Ultimately, regulating private businesses used globally by billions of people is nothing but a ploy to win voters who feel violated by what they consider to be a lack of privacy. In reality, the number of people actually perturbed by the Cambridge Analytica data leak will be much smaller than the news media and government officials anticipated. Only time will tell if this controversy forces U.S. politicians to enact rules for Facebook inspired by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
5. Native Ad Blocking
The digital ad industry was shaken to its core when increasing amounts of desktop users started activating ad blocking technology within their browsers. Luckily, ad blockers don’t filter social ads that live natively in a user’s news feed. So the industry didn’t miss a step, and transferred banner budgets to social advertising. Media planners should be nervous about another shake-up in the next few months as social networks roll-out their own ad blocking and privacy protection technology which will cut down on the number of available impressions and clicks.
6. Digital Under The Microscope
Facebook may be the only social network in the news lately, but the Cambridge Analytica story will put all social networks — and web businesses as a whole — under increased scrutiny to protect the privacy of their users. Consumer data is a valuable commodity — and sites like Google and Amazon are not going to stop offering targeting capabilities to their ad clients. Expect more stories about data privacy violations to make a big splash in the news over the next few months — and not just from social networks.
7. Believe It Or Not, More Ads
When businesses adopted the Fan Page infrastructure, Facebook changed its algorithm to feature more “owned” stories in user’s feeds. This initiative was a strategic building block in Facebook’s transition to an ad revenue driven enterprise. Once Fan Page audiences reached critical mass, organic stories started disappearing from News Feeds — giving brands no choice but to buy ads to reach the millions of people they had spent years collecting on their Fan Page. When Instagram’s business pages become official, expect a shift in sponsored posts in the core user experience of the Instagram feed.
8. How Do You Like Them Apples
It’s a bold prediction, but it’s logical that Apple steps into the social fray, although it’s unlikely to be through a media network. Tim Cook is a vocal proponent of user privacy and Apple already has a network of secure inter-connected devices with high global user adoption. The company has struggled in the past to socialize the iPhone experience (i.e.; Game Center) and they missed the boat on the social music experience owned by Spotify. Perhaps we’ll see a social device network built on a chat/phone/photo infrastructure that ensures a user’s media is under personal control and their personal details not up for bidding to a bevy of ad buyers.
9. Maddening Mad Men
The agency space is another vertical that will see increased scrutiny in the coming months. Agencies leverage customer lists, look-alike audiences, and micro-targeting to get their message across to the most qualified groups of targeted consumers. Ultimately, social networks will make it harder for agencies to analyze audiences with the granularity they have become used to over the last several years. This will tighten Facebook’s relationship with the businesses that control the ad dollars — as agencies will be forced to work directly with approved partners — rather than building their own tech to parse open data sources. Crackdowns on Facebook GDPR restrictions, decreasing ad inventory … Madison Avenue has got their work cut out for them over the next few months.
10. Change Is Already On Its Way
All-in-all, the above predictions are small beans in comparison to the changes coming to Europe with GDPR in May. This wide-reaching initiative will regulate the way web businesses collect, store, and share user data — and most digital businesses have been prepping for GDPR for months. This will naturally change business processes at enterprises around the world — as personal data will only be available through “double opt-in” — and will have a significantly shorter shelf storage life — ultimately diminishing the value of the commodity. End result: Cambridge Analytica may have sparked a fuse, but Facebook GDPR issues are going to be the explosion that rocks the way businesses operate around the world.