By: Kathy Doering
I have been waiting for some time to see which platform was going to take this plunge first in the social media world. Software companies have for years been able to tap into open sourced (publicly available) social media data used primarily as a metric on how well they were performing in social media marketing against their competitors. It is also very well known that these software platforms can handle reputation management for business and even for consumers. Controversy surrounded this and Facebook was squeezed hard over privacy concerns. This was instrumental in the creation of GDPR (*The General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individual citizens of the European Union and the European Economic Area. It also addresses the transfer of personal data outside the EU and EEA areas.) *Wikipedia
It was and is a game changer. Software platforms will not allow users to dig into the posts of individuals who "liked" a post or mentioned your brand within their platforms. Rather, they use the publicly available information to provide the same analytics at a sky high level. This is still excellent data for marketers.
In a statement issued to the UK’s Independent newspaper Facebook said,“We believe in the right for people to have a private conversation online. End-to-end encryption helps protect that right and is fundamental to the value we provide to over a billion people every day. We oppose government attempts to build backdoors because they would undermine the privacy and security of our users everywhere.”
So how can Facebook monetize all this data they hold and ensure the privacy of their users? Easy... create a market research app inside the platform. Introducing Facebook Viewpoints. Facebook Viewpoints will give people the opportunity to participate in surveys and receive points that convert to cash paid via PayPal, for taking a 15 minute survey. If marketed correctly, I think they have a shot at this. There is no better place in the social media atmosphere where you have a more captive audience. As of the end of 2018, it boasted over 2.32 billion monthly active users.
This isn't their first attempt at market research. The previous app Facebook launched was called Facebook Research. The Facebook Research app, which offers volunteers between the ages of 13 and 35 monthly $20 gift cards in exchange for near-total access to the data on their phones, would no longer be available on iOS. This is because the app violated Apple's developer guidelines. Android users will still be able to use it.
TechCrunch initially published the following about the Facebook Market Research App:
"TechCrunch’s investigation discovered that Facebook has been quietly operated the Research program on iOS and Android since 2016, recently under the name Project Atlas. It recruited 13 to 35 year olds, 5 percent of which were teenagers, with ads on Instagram and Snapchat and paid them a monthly fee plus referral bonuses to install Facebook’s Research app, the included VPN app that routes traffic to Facebook, and to ‘Trust’ the company with root network access to their phone. That lets Facebook pull in a user’s web browsing activity, what apps are on their phone and how they use them, and even decrypt their encrypted traffic. Facebook went so far as to ask users to screenshot and submit their Amazon order history. Facebook uses all this data to track competitors, assess trends, and plan its product roadmap."
In a statement, Facebook objected to parts of TechCrunch’s report.
“Key facts about this market research program are being ignored,” the company said. “Despite early reports, there was nothing ‘secret’ about this; it was literally called the Facebook Research App. It wasn’t ‘spying’ as all of the people who signed up to participate went through a clear on-boarding process asking for their permission and were paid to participate. Finally, less than 5 percent of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens. All of them with signed parental consent forms.”
The company also denied that Facebook Research was intended to replace Onavo, although it did not respond to evidence that the apps shared similar code.
How this will pan out down the road remains to be seen. Facebook has a long way to go to become the next JD Powers, but even those who are the most skeptical have to admit, it was a brilliant move. If they can pull this off it will make a huge impact on market research as we know it. However, I tend to get a little ahead of myself.
The question remains whether or not people who use the platform will be willing to give up more information to Facebook. The company does state it won't sell your data to third party apps or publicly share the results. Many hurdles are ahead and I am not sure the timing of this is the best.
What do you think? Can Facebook be trusted? How could this impact market research?