I’ll admit, I was surprised when I looked at YouGov’s BrandIndex tool today (4 July) and found out Facebook appears to have come out of this particular storm relatively unscathed as far as UK consumer perception of the brand is concerned.
All the usual measures of perception that one would usually expect to see drop following a scandal given this much media exposure – such as Reputation, Impression, Recommendation and Consideration – have failed to do so by what YouGov describes as “statistically significant”. The only measure down in a statistically significant fashion on the previous week is Buzz (scoring -4.2 on 3 July, down from -3.7 a week prior), which is understandable given that score is a balance of the positive and negative things a consumer has heard about a company over the past two weeks.
The debate is still open as to whether Facebook has behaved unethically or not by not gaining consent from the near 700,000 users it experimented on – but the majority of users don’t seem to care either way.
Perhaps this goes some length to show that users have come to realise the compromise they must make in order to receive an outstanding free service. As one young man speaking to Radio 1’s Newsbeat put it earlier this week: “it’s their house, you play by their rules” – and if you don’t like it: the door’s that way, he added.
Recent activity such as the creation of the AdChoices logo and subsequent online behavioural advertising education marketing campaign and Google’s joint push with the Citizens Advice Bureau have gone some way to raise awareness about the way in which consumer data is used by companies to deliver more relevant advertising and services. Consumers are becoming more aware that the cost for using online services isn’t necessarily monetary, but in their data. More and more consumers now comprehend that when it comes to social networks, they are the product – and they still continue to use them regularly in their billions.
And even for those not aware of how valuable their data is to these online services – whether it be used for online advertising, website testing or psychological studies – short of Facebook selling their whereabouts to a bogus debt collector, they’re happy in their nonchalance to return to the site each day, despite the reams of media reports about its apparent data malpractice.
Facebook may have suffered a minor PR blip this week, but for its users, the bigger disaster would be if it were to suffer a blip that made it go offline. Or worse still, if they had to pay to use it with anything other than the disclosure of their data.