The Changing Faces of Facebook – How are privacy issues affecting the Facebook brand?

1. The world according to Facebook.

I am an avid social media user, and even though I think social networking is a powerfully liberating tool; I am still extremely cautious about what I post online. Controlling your online identity is important; understanding how sites like Facebook use this information is important. Recently on my news feed, I had friends posting status updates informing their Facebook community to check privacy settings, because Facebook has yet again moved the goal posts. There is growing concern and awareness over Facebook features and privacy regulations; constantly changing the way our information is used.

With Facebook having over 500 million users; owning personal data on a group that equals the size of the third largest country in the world. Facebook is a necessary part of business and life. Therefore, with developing features built on user information being accessible; privacy seems to be becoming a privilege. With Founder Mark Zuckerberg making sweeping statements like ‘he doesn’t believe in privacy’, consumers are justly concerned. Even though the founder might not believe in privacy the consumers do, and the Facebook brand could be harmed by the continuous uproar over social networking sites abuse of user information.

It is inevitable that Facebook’s lack of privacy have had an impact on consumer perceptions; designing new features to ‘nudge’ consumers into publicly sharing much more information. If consumers suspect that the level of privacy that they signed up for is weakening, and, even worse, changing without their full awareness, they will quickly start losing faith. Good will is a necessary attribute for a successful commercial brand.

Recently, there was outcry over a new feature: ‘Facebook Places’, with over 50% of users responding negatively and voicing concerns over sharing where you are, or  your address in a public forum. However, ‘Facebook Deals’, which is a feature developed from ‘Facebook Places’; allows consumers to ‘check in’ online at a physical location i.e. Gap or Starbucks receiving benefits for doing so, thus in turn sharing these promotions with their friends. Deals, by many, is being hailed as a ‘game changer’. This new feature gives local businesses a chance to ’utilise’ social media. Therefore, Facebook is redeeming itself by taking a potentially negative feature, and turning it into a positive for both businesses and consumers; bridging the gap on and offline.

According to research by Brand Keys‘ annual Customer Loyalty Index, on the basis of all consumer brand attributes, including “privacy and security,” Facebook ranks the dominant No. 1 social networking site. The data represents exactly how consumers feel about those brands in comparison to other brands in their categories. The data indicates that while security and control are important issues among social media users, they contribute less than 20% of consumers’ overall perceptions about social network brands, and are far outweighed by a network’s ability to reinforce a user’s own self-image, and to give users easy connections, two things Facebook excels at. Therefore, even though there is concern over Facebook’s privacy regulations; it hasn’t slowed it growing user base, and it is still a trust worthy tool with societal value.

2. Who is the most trusted social networking site?

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