Is free security the key to making Facebook loveable?

Facebook has signed a partnership with McAfee to offer its users a complimentary six-month subscription to McAfee security software. But the cynic in me can’t help but wonder if this is more of a sales ploy than a much-needed assertion of security on the popular site.

While I think it’s laudable to see Facebook offer its 350 million users a source of online security – a complex issue still faces the industry. How do you avoid your brand becoming tainted by association with an online scam or spam attacks?

Facebook says it will monitor the IP addresses accessing its site to ensure they are clean before granting them access. I can see the logic here, but why would I want to trial and eventually buy McAfee, when there are known alternatives such as AVG also available online?

There’s also a quandary about the level of education such an install will need for consumers to understand it. Will everyone understand the reason why they can’t get onto Facebook? Will it be as irritating as an MSN error message that leaves people Googling why they can’t get on?

After all, the social networking site is created to accomodate teenagers aged 13 and above, the sort of audience that David Cameron claims “are like sponges, remarkably receptive to the influences.” They aren’t the only ones, of course.

An episode of Friends where Ross loses his palaeontology conference speech because Chandler wants to click on a dubious link of Anna Kournikova comes to mind as an occasion where the Internet was seen to let itself down.

Spamming and scams have always been one of the dangers of the Internet. Some have argued that McAfee partnering with Facebook is a piece of marketing genius – I’m more inclined to take the wait-and-see approach.

As a leading academic has described it to Marketing Week, the digital marketing environment could prove “almost impossible” to police, filled with grey areas to avoid.

Marketers now have a responsibility to protect their brands, but more importantly their users. Disney’s identification of the new ‘tween’ market shows that these responsibilities are becoming greater as new generations become core online audiences.

Disney says it is using the research to inform and influence the company’s marketing, communication and content creation strategy. I think this is a tack more marketers should take.

After all, PricewaterhouseCoopers has identified the future as an ‘armchair revolution’, where consumers of all generations have been identified as becoming more digitally savvy. That being so, it makes it all the more important to engage with your consumers with relevant, personal communications – but most of all safe communications that don’t risk endangering valued customers.

While regulation remains a consultation talking point, it’s up to you to be your own police force – not McAfee and Facebook.

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