The surveillance economy exists because we created it. Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, developed the platform in which millions of people log onto every day for free. Except, it was never free. We paid and continue to pay for it by providing our data. As a marketer, I live and die by data.

Last week, Zuckerberg testified in front of Congress to help explain how its data is used and was possibly abused. By some accounts, as many as 87 million users might have had their data compromised. If Facebook doesn't make changes surrounding how its data is stored and who is permitted to access it, policymakers will force changes be made. This has many marketers concerned since Facebook and other social media platforms have become a part of their marketing plans.

Nearly 70 percent of American adults use Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center. Almost three-quarters of those users visit the site every day. Data is surrendered every time we log on to Facebook or any other social media platform. Or comment on a business page. Or ask our friends to donate to a cause through an app. Data marketers use to help them craft messages. As Adam Levin reminded us in his Inc.com article, data collection isn't always bad for the consumer: 

"The benefit to consumers from all this data being scooped up and converted into predictive marketing is an added layer of convenience and perhaps access to more creature comforts that are 'exactly right.' But the downside may be something as big as the manipulation of our democratic process."

We know the importance of privacy. Rule number one is data capture should be permission-based. When I work with clients and we conduct a focus group or send out a survey, nothing should be connected specifically to a user's identity in order to serve them specific messages. Rather, we can analyze data as a group and use that to market to audiences. That's how loyalty programs work and how focus groups help shape messages to specific audiences. Audiences, not specific people. This is an important distinction.

Why We Shouldn't Dismiss Social Media as a Marketing Tool

So what should businesses that rely on social media to communicate to their audiences start doing? Should they abandon social media platforms?

No. Social media platforms aren't going away and they've become an important part of our lives. Even with added layers, they're going to be an important way for us to communicate with each other.

Uploading photos to Instagram or engaging with customers on Facebook can let your company's personality come to life, but if you're building up fans at the expense of building your email list, it's a costly mistake.

Why Building Our Email List Is More Important Than Ever

Unlike social media platforms, companies own their email lists. At any given time, those platforms may choose to make your fan base available to you at a cost, or they might shut down. The likelihood of either of those things happening may be slim, but if this recent debacle has done anything, it's reminded us that social media platforms are owned and managed by other companies.

Email clutter remains an issue but most customers look forward to receiving email updates from businesses when they've opted to receive them. Yet for all the benefits email marketing affords us when it comes to communicating with our customers, the challenge remains securing those email addresses in the first place and then giving recipients a reason to open your emails.

Still, savvy marketers know that it's worth the time and effort to build a communications platform where not only are you driving the messages, but you also own the lanes. A solid email list is an asset that belongs to you. And in these times, we cannot afford to let someone else own our communications platform.  

Published on: Apr 17, 2018