The Real Problem With Facebook: CRM

14 May

Lots of chatter this week about Facebook’s complex privacy settings.  Plenty of people making valid points (lots of echo chamber bleating too, of course), but for me the real issue is a CRM one.

For individual users, the reality is that Facebook offers an extraordinary level of control over what information you share.  I’ll concede that they’re a little shady in places (e.g. there’s no ‘hide everything from everyone I don’t know’ button), but the fact is they give you the ability to hide any information from anyone if you so choose. As the end user you have a responsibility to take a little ownership: if you don’t like their terms, don’t use the service.

The bigger issue, as far as I’m concerned, is the huge amount of customer and constituent data Facebook has control over.  Say you have a fan page that 140,000 people like, as we do at Autism Speaks. Facebook OWNS that data, 100%. Yes, we get extraordinary interaction on the content we publish, and are lucky enough to have an incredibly engaged and active community, but ultimately we’re at Facebook’s mercy when it comes to those users.

We can’t export our data, we can’t message our supporters directly  and we can’t properly integrate our facebook base into our overall CRM strategy. Our Facebook community essentially exists in near complete isolation. If Facebook turns around and pulls a Ning by charging (entirely within the realms of possibility at some point), lots of organizations, non-profit and otherwise, will have a very tough decision to make.

Does this mean that Facebook isn’t important?  Of course not… 400 million + users is an incredibly compelling proposition: it’s a cornerstone of many people’s online lives, and there’s a huge opportunity there.  It does mean though that brands (and in particular non-profits, who tend to have less resources), need to go in to it with their eyes open.

The speed of Facebook’s growth is absolutely staggering. It should absolutely factor into your overall digital strategy, but don’t make the mistake of putting all your eggs in once basket, especially if you don’t have CPG sized budgets to play with if you need to dig yourself out of a hole further down the road.

The personal privacy complaints leave me cold, and in all honesty ring a little hollow: if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.

I’m much more concerned about the CRM issue.


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