Now that a lot of the backlash about Facebook’s privacy changes have died down, I think it’s a good opportunity to consider what it means for those of us in the local search business.
On “Quit Facebook Day” on May 31, about 35,000 users closed their accounts in protest, according to The Wall Street Journal. Additionally, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee requested additional information from Facebook on its privacy efforts to date – and even the Federal Trade Commission said it was getting involved.
While this isn’t a statistically significant number of users (The Wall Street Journal reported that protest involved less than 0.009% of the total Facebook population), it’s symbolic of a desire for control of information among social network users.
And it will impact advertisers who use social networks. Access to information is key to targeting the right customer. It also affects word of mouth, as users limit access to their posts covering opinions of local businesses.
But the momentum supports continued local search growth within the social space. Bloomberg reported that the number of advertisers on Facebook have quadrupled since the start of 2009, according to the company. That high statistic conveys the notion that businesses are increasingly committing their advertising and marketing resources to a medium that they believe is viable and will demonstrate real growth over the long-term.
As local search and Yellow Pages companies consider how to incorporate social tools into their advertising offerings, we have to be aware that while the opportunity is there,concerns over privacy and access to personal information are strong. And whatever platform we use – Facebook, Twitter, or our own proprietary ones – we must treat users’ information with sensitivity and a high regard for privacy.