“Gosh, I’m glad it’s not me sweating up there.”
While Mark Zuckerberg’s recent testimony to Congress and the recent debate over Facebook’s role in user data is certainly entertaining television, it speaks to a fascinating question.
That is, what can we as business owners can learn from all of this?
Although we may not be raking in the cash or soaking up the national attention that Facebook is, the fact remains that it’s a business at the end of the day. Zuckerberg had a big idea that he managed to grow, and regardless of how you feel about Facebook’s situation at large, there’s are plenty of big-picture takeaways from this snafu.
So, what should entrepreneurs keep in the back of their mind as this story continues to unfold?
Mind Your Customers’ Data
From your company’s reputation to staying in line with the law, the protection of customer data represents a top priority for any business today. The Facebook situation will only continue to grow consumer concerns about privacy; meanwhile, new regulations are poised to roll out to make those concerns even more apparent.
As noted by Reciprocity Labs, the forthcoming GDPR is poised to change the conversation on data privacy landscape not only for those living in the EU, but also those doing business in the region. Again, Facebook’s data woes don’t solely impact themselves as we look at the law moving forward.
Put Security First
On a related note, the recent slew of data breaches speak to a similar concern about security in general. Unless you can immediately signal a sense of security and trust to your base, acquiring new customers is a headache. Meanwhile, once you lose that trust, it’s nearly impossible to get it back.
Facebook is in a unique situation as part of the the Cambridge Analytica scandal fallout only because they’re so massive. While people would have dumped any other company by now for their overnight, Facebook gets a pass because it’s so second-nature to us. Unfortunately, small businesses obviously aren’t always so lucky.
Transparency Matters to Customers
Despite the memes and mockery of Zuckerberg’s testimony, one does have to give him a degree of credit for putting himself under such scrutiny in the first place. Those rare where he does come across as human and authentic are a breath of fresh air from the sort of out-of-touch CEO persona he’s become more recently associated with.
And on that note, people are rightfully weary of any company that operates “behind the curtain” and out of the public eye. Consumers don’t want to feel like they’re being preyed on, but rather have the empathy and support of those they do business with.
Nobody Likes a Monopoly
Facebook has come to a point where they’ve transcended social media itself, amassing over 2 billion monthly active users from all walks of life.
While Zuckerberg may have began his career as a renegade, Facebook’s growth and perceived monopoly on user data certainly isn’t doing them any favors in the public eye. Remember when Zuckerberg was dead-set against running ads? Times certainly changed, didn’t they?
The takeaway? Sometimes the best way to be seen as a protagonist is by sticking to your principles. The quickest way to being seen as a “bad guy” is by being a monopoly that ignores principles for profit.
Accountability Runs Deep
In the midst of Facebook mishandling data, Zuckerberg is more or less the sole person getting grilled for the company’s shortcomings. Obviously Zuckerberg himself doesn’t directly have his hand in each and every one of Facebook’s misdoings with data, but he still takes the heat.
Likewise, business owners oftentimes find them inadvertently responsible for the actions of others. It may not necessarily be “fair,” but it comes with the territory of doing business. That’s why everyone tells us to develop a thick skin, right?
“Bigger” Isn’t Always “Better”
We often hear the notion that an up-and-coming company wants to be “the next Facebook,” but perhaps this whole situation is a sound reminder that that level of success comes with some serious baggage.
Fame, or in this case, infamy, most definitely puts you under the microscope. There’s a lot of pressure on CEOs and business owners of all shapes and sizes, and the “bigger they come, the harder they fall” certainly applies in scenarios like this.
In short, sometimes there’s serious marketing firepower in simply staying “the little guy.”
And although this story is likely far from over, there’s plenty that business owners can learn from it already.
Indeed we should revel in the fact that it isn’t us being scrutinized for such a massive scandal. However, business owners should also keep in the back of their mind what they should do to avoid these sorts of smaller-scale situations down the road.