Is trust in the Facebook brand irrevocably damaged in the eyes of consumers?

After a week of stories about Facebook's involvement with scandal-ridden Cambridge Analytica, the industry wonders if the platform's users will ever fully trust it again.

Is trust in the Facebook brand irrevocably damaged in the eyes of consumers?

While some brands may have left Facebook, or as Sonos did, paused its advertising on the platform to make a statement, it's been broadly agreed that brands will only truly leave the platform when its users do.

Since the scandal broke on 18 March, users have been discussing if they should leave Facebook. The hashtag #deletefacebook started on 21 March when founder of WhatsApp, Brian Acton tweeted "It's time, #deletefacebook". This led to a wave of tweets with #deletefacebook appearing more than 10,000 times on Twitter in a two-hour period that day based on data by ExportTweee. 

Another hashtag tracking platform, TalkWalker estimated that the hashtag has been used on Twitter around 340,000 times in the past week but appears to be dying down. 

But does this mean users have irrevocably changed their opinion of Facebook? For some, perhaps. 

In a quick pulse survey for Campaign conducted yesterday, digital insights company Toluna asked 1,000 consumers in the UK, "Do you trust Facebook less as a result of the revelations from the Cambridge Analytica scandal?".

For 53% the answer was "yes". However, for 34% the scandal has not altered their opinion of Facebook at all, and a further 13% had no idea what the survey was talking about.

An earlier study by Toluna conducted just after the story broke, found that only 34% of users had updated their privacy settings on Facebook and less than 8% had deleted their accounts. 

While the industry is vehement that users should not accept this use of their data as the value exchange for using social media platforms, perhaps users themselves are less concerned. 

We asked the industry if Facebook is likely to recover from this incident. 

Is trust in the Facebook brand irrevocably damaged in the eyes of consumers?

Jamie Coomber

UK marketing director, Sonos

‘’Undeniably, consumer confidence in "Big Tech" has been tested by the scandal. Despite existing flaws of such massive digital networks, we (Sonos) fundamentally believe in the power of technology to bring us together, for the better. Trust in the Facebook brand has not been permanently damaged but the need for evolution has been emphasised. Now is the time to have the hard discussions and to support those who are working to drive things forward. Our initial gesture of halting our advertising with Facebook for a week and donating that money to Access Now, was an acknowledgement of the work we all have to do, Sonos included, to enable our industry to play a productive, empowering role in our digital society, in a way that works for everyone.’’           

Ryan Kangisser

Partner Global Media Consultancy MediaSense

No. Data breaches of all different levels have sadly become a regular event for today’s consumer and while this latest breach is deplorable, it is unlikely to impact Facebook too much. Consumers will inevitably become more aware and streetwise regarding how their data is used (which may just change the way they use the platforms) but they will move on (and quickly), which is testament to the critical utility and value these platforms create in their lives. As we have already seen with other high profile data breaches (e.g. Yahoo, Uber) as well as tax avoidance scandals (e.g. Amazon), consumers are remarkably loyal.

Sairah Ashman

Global chief executive at Wolff Olins

No, but Facebook faces a monumental task in rebuilding its reputation. The only way I can see this happening is if it becomes an evangelising advocate for better ethics online, backed up with tangible actions. It was always dancing with fire promoting an open and connected world, while relying on a business model built on harvesting and access to personal data. Its ownership of WhatsApp and Instagram combined with how this story is unravelling globally means it really can’t afford to bury its head in the sand and stay quiet. It’s time for action. Maybe even for Sheryl to take the helm?

Al Young

Chief creative officer, St Luke's

"Yes, we have seen a flurry of indignant posts saying delete Facebook
now, but it's too useful and entertaining a tool to be dropped that
readily. The likelihood is this incident will pass without any
permanent damage to the brand because there’s a tacit understanding
that if a service is completely free we, the user, are the product.

"If anything the scandal has made Facebook’s data look more useful
than it is. According to the FT this weekend, Cambridge Analytica was
profoundly surprised by Donald Trump’s success. Predicting his chances of
winning as 20% up to a day before the election." 

Danielly Netto

Global head of presales at Socialbakers 

While trust in Facebook has clearly taken a hit over the last week, we don't believe that trust in the brand has been irrevocably damaged. People shouldn't forget that Facebook is also the victim in this case. Mark Zuckerberg admitted last week that there was a data breach and he pledged to work harder to build back user trust and safeguard the data of its users. Over the years we have seen security breaches in industries like banking, telecommunications and e-commerce, but people don't stop using them. I expect that to also be the case with Facebook.  

Craig Mawdsley

Joint chief strategy officer, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

Facebook certainly has a question mark hovering over it at the moment. In the past few days, I have been in two client meetings where executions on facebook have been presented with a nervous laugh and a joke. That’s not a good place to be for any brand. But, at the moment, we are still presenting the work, and most clients are still running the work. Because it’s as close to an indispensable channel as anything nowadays. Whilst many of us as individuals might have qualms about facebook’s (probably accidental and clumsy) influence on civil society and representative democracy we’re all still using it. And as long as the eyeballs are there, the ads are there. At the very least, little has changed for users, who at least tacitly understand that when the service is free, they’re the product.