In 2018 Mark Zuckerberg showed the world how a steady stream of blunders and insensitivity to consumers’ concerns over privacy and fake news has tragically damaged trust in the Facebook brand. The Facebook founder and CEO essentially traded a core value, privacy, for profits. His performance last year provides a classic case study for all companies on how to manage brand risk, or at least what not to do.
Facebook’s new mission statement says it seeks “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together”. A brand is basically a promise designed to create a trustful bond with customers. Facebook users provide personal data with the expectation and trust that Facebook’s promise to build this community would be delivered with full privacy protection. However, Zuckerberg’s actions in 2018 have created a perception that he has chosen profits over people, a misalignment negatively viewed by the public that is tarnishing Facebook’s brand reputation.
In general, the brand risks from social media firms like Facebook have become more disconcerting, as users all over the world have become aware of the cyber security issues and how easily their private data can be exposed. The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer found that trust in social media is only 41% globally. With this declining trust, consumers have become intent on wanting brands to pressure social media platforms to more effectively:
• Safeguard personal data – 71%
• Curb the spread of fake news – 70%
• Shield them from offensive content – 68%
The deceitful performance of Zuckerberg last year has undermined trust in Facebook and reminded many of his arrogant behavior portrayed in the movie “The Social Network”. It started early last year when it was revealed that a third party had gained access to the personal data of 87 million Facebook users in 2015, but the company did little to address this. It seemed there was a privacy or fake news scandal every month in 2018. A few highlights:
• March – the world learned that Facebook exposed private data from 50 million users to an academic researcher who sold it to the analytical firm, Cambridge Analytica. Upsetting consumers more was the fact that this data was used in Trump’s Presidential advertising campaign.
• April – appearing before Congress, Zuckerberg tried to convince the world that Facebook “doesn’t sell data” to advertisers, stating this 8 times in a condescending way. This may be technically true, but the public didn’t buy it in light of the sad reality of these data breaches.