Why Mark Zuckerberg's congressional testimony matters to customers - and why it does not
Over the past couple of days, many of us have been riveted by Mark Zuckerberg testifying in front of a congressional hearing. We have laughed over the genuine naiveté of some of the members of Congress in their true lack of understanding of what Facebook actually is. And I believe that some of us, in spite of the very real concerns about how Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to acquire so much data about us, have secretly been rooting for Mark to win this battle. Because maybe, just maybe, we like the new world Facebook has built for us and we acknowledge our part in creating it. But we want to feel safer living in it.
In the early years, we liked the easy opening to share with the world how we were doing in 3rd person. (Marni is.... learning how to ride a bike at the ripe age of 27...Oh my!) We liked that we could now share our lives, even tangentially, with all of our so-called friends. We spent literally hours of our dating life pondering whether or not to change our relationship status - and what it would mean, and to who. We even liked trying to create strategies over who we would "accept" friendships from - and who we absolutely would not under any set of circumstances be willing to reconnect with.
And slowly over time, for many of us, Facebook turned into our real world on top of our virtual world. We would literally not know if something happened (whether it be an event, a birthday, a show - or birth or death) if it wasn't posted on Facebook.
But today, Facebook is paying the price for allowing a company to have taken advantage of us relinquishing our lives on Facebook. Our elections have paid the price of unlawful actors using Facebook - our likes, our fun survey data, our friends, etc - and we're angry, upset and feel violated.
If we take this away from the realm of politics for a second, we feel like maybe we've been manipulated as a consumer. Do we really like the things we like - or do brands have the potential to likewise manipulate us using our data without us knowing? How many of us swear that we have never searched for the things we talk about, only to have it appear in the form of an ad on Facebook when we least expect it?
While I’m not here to argue whether or not this is actually happening, what is important is how we FEEL as customers using platforms like Facebook - who have millions of data points on each of us as we have liked and shared our way through our lives for the past 14 years. How can Facebook make us feel safer using it to communicate with our communities - and how can brands actively and transparently engage with their customers?
As my friend and startup advisor Hillel Fuld said to me this morning - "I would love it if Reese’s knew exactly the right time to approach me with an offer!" - but he would only feel that way if and when he had given permission to Reese's to know that much about him.
So, as some of us chuckle our way through the Zuckerburg hearings, let's face it. What we really want to know, beyond "is he sorry or not" is - How is Facebook going to keep my data safe - and how will Reese's know the perfect time to offer me a free Reese's peanut butter cup?