After the big splash of the Cambridge Analytica personal data disaster, Facebook has been in overdrive to repair the damage. Tough when former insiders turn against you. Now it's become even harder, as Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg had to hit a new low in self-abasement yesterday.

Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg took days to even publicly talk about the issue, even though none of this was news at the company. Then came the realization that the company snagged phone and text data from many using its Android app.

This is the sort of PR situation where candy, flowers, and a hang-dog look won't do much. Particularly when the market cap dropped by tens of billions of dollars within days. The desperate hope is that enough crawling will help.

However, the most embarrassing step to date, which happened yesterday, wasn't what anyone said. It's where they said it.

Remember that Facebook's claim to fame is its interaction and connection with more than a billion people worldwide and hundreds of millions in the U.S., its biggest revenue ad market. Clients have continued to spend money with the social network because of the audience selection and reach of the platform.

Where did Facebook have to go to spread its message? Sunday morning talking heads programs and full-page ads in multiple newspapers.

TV and newspapers.

All this time, the media industry thought that Facebook was the future. That companies had to learn to get along with Zuckerberg's pet to reach people and hopefully get a little attention and revenue. That maybe Facebook would deign to pass on some of the audience and advertising wealth in a moment of partner largesse.

Until Facebook changed its mind one or twice or three times about what it does and how it will do it. Until publishers realized that basing a business model on Facebook is like the old time problem of manufacturers only selling through Sears & Roebuck, which was the dominant reseller at one point, because when the one big customer turns on you, as it will, you are up the creek. Facebook had it all, and when they turned off the taps, it was a shock -- no, I tell you, an absolute shock -- to all these companies that had trusted them.

We'll just pass over the day when the man behind the curtain admitted that Facebook had some, ahem, somewhat inaccurate ad metrics that could overinflate the organic reach of ads by more than double. Suggesting that much of the money spent might have been ... oh, this is painful ... wasted.

And now, Facebook has tacitly admitted that when the going is tough, when you really need to reach the public, the best choice is -- legacy media. Get earned placement on TV. Take out ads in newspapers.

What is its next plan? Run an insert in a magazine? Send out coupons in a direct mail package? Come up with a catchy jingle and hit the radio?

Facebook isn't enough. Nor is any other social media platform, if you want to reach the public. Marketing has to look at multiple channels and remember that what you see in the numbers isn't always what you get.

Hey, if a TV appearance or newspaper ad is good enough for Facebook, right?

Published on: Mar 26, 2018