With the hot topic of data privacy still cooling on the windowsill, Facebook is heading into the kitchen to whip up some fresh cookies.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced an update that gives users the ability to see which apps and sites have their info, as well as a simple way to clear their cookies and history — what they’ve clicked on, the websites they’ve visited, etc. They’ll also be given the option to completely turn off having their information stored with their account.
How does this affect the average user? All that information Facebook’s been collecting on them disappears, with their profiles being wiped clean. Good for them, right? But if you’ve ever had to clear your cookies in your browser, you’d know it’s actually pretty inconvenient – losing all your settings and preferences, having to sign back in to every website, having to recover your password because you can’t figure out which one of the four passwords you always use is the right one. Basically, the same can be said for Facebook.
As Zuckerberg notes, the Facebook user experience won’t be as good while it relearns your preferences. Any apps you’ve got linked might need to be reconnected and set-up, and you’ll most likely start to see some VERY random and irrelevant ads for a while.
So what does this mean for businesses and marketers? Cookies have been a big part of the digital marketer’s lunch box for a long time, and the thought of losing them has some practitioners chucking a tantrum.
Without these cookies, digital marketing definitely becomes more challenging – audience building and targeting might become less effective, remarketing audiences won’t populate as quickly, tracking and attributing conversions could get less accurate, and Facebook’s machine learning might take longer to optimise to specific campaign objectives.
While a lot of those words might not mean anything to most users, they spell doom and gloom to a digital marketer. But what’s important to note here is that while some users might explore this feature and perform a one-off clearing of their information, it’s unlikely any significant amount of users will want to live with the inconvenience of completely turning off information storage permanently.
(For what it’s worth, Facebook vice president of global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson recently told The Wall Street Journal that the company hasn’t seen a huge change in consumer behaviour as a result of the data scandal, and isn’t anticipating making major changes to its business model.)
If a user does clear their history, we do lose those valuable cookies they’ve been hoarding since they opened their Facebook account. But guess what? Once they do, a fresh batch of cookies goes straight into the oven, filled with only the freshest and most relevant information for us digital marketers to enjoy.
Herein lies the opportunity. In the short term there may be some negatives, as user profiles become clean slates, with only very basic characteristics attached to their profiles (self-reported items, such as age, gender and location). However, new information will immediately begin to be stored, based on the user’s actions NOW, and not the ‘Which tattoo should you get?’ quiz they don’t even remember doing eight years ago. (Barbed-wire arm band, FYI.)
So while some digital marketers have started sweating at the thought of losing some stale cookies, others already have a glass of milk ready for the fresh ones.