In 2018, Facebook disclosed a data scandal of epic proportions.

Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, got hold of the personal data of more than 87 million Facebook users. Since the news broke, Facebook has been rolling out a slew of privacy tools to give users more clarity on what data they collect and where it’s being shared.

If you are among the 71 percent of small businesses that use social media, you might be wondering what the privacy crackdown means for your marketing strategy—so we pulled together some expert advice.

3 ways to rethink your Facebook strategy this year.

1. Use Messenger marketing to connect with Facebook users amid increasing privacy concerns.

Larry Kim, founder of WordStream and now CEO of MobileMonkey, recommended Facebook Messenger marketing for businesses during Buffer’s recent webinar on “The Top 10 Facebook Marketing Tips in the Era of the New Algorithm.”

Kim shared that he’s seen 10 to 80 times the amount of engagement through Messenger marketing versus email or Facebook’s News Feed. And guess what—it’s an opt-in model, meaning user permission is already built in.

Why should you consider it? Because getting your content right in front of customers could soon be harder than ever.

A Facebook marketing expert and founder of a digital marketing agency who wished to remain anonymous explains: “The apocalyptic worst-case scenario here would be Facebook requiring that every person give explicit opt-in permission to be included in a given advertiser’s custom audience. This would be game-changing and would have a dramatic impact on Facebook advertising.”

If every user had to give their consent for advertisers to reach them, that could put a serious dampener on the number of people who discover your business.

screenshot of facebook messenger marketing example

But the Messenger model needs users’ permission upfront. A person must interact with an advertiser’s content—comment on a post, for example—before they receive messages. And from there, they still need to reply to opt in.

“You’re not added until you say ‘Yes,’ and there’s a built-in unsubscribe that blocks [advertisers] from sending messages to them in the future,” Kim said during the webinar.

Users get the chance to say yes to content they want to see and no to what they don’t, and their preferences pan out—unlike email, for example.

“In Facebook Messenger, there’s this more robust permission model where people have to more explicitly opt in… and unsubscriptions have to be honored,” says Kim. “That’s the problem with spammers—you click the unsubscribe button, but they keep sending you stuff. The Facebook platform actually stops you from sending them content because you don’t have permission to message them anymore.”

2. Give customers content they actually want, right in their inboxes.

In 2018, Facebook began prioritizing content that generates “meaningful interactions.” In other words, active engagement (commenting, sharing, reacting) is the biggest factor that determines your content’s reach on Facebook.

screenshot of facebook messenger marketing example

So think about what content your customers would happily use or interact with. What would they find valuable and appreciate finding in their inboxes?

You could try using chatbots to regularly message deals for your restaurant directly to customers. Or find new clients for your freelance writing business by inviting users to opt in to Messenger updates with your latest content.

Facebook currently has many apps and features under the microscope, and that includes Messenger marketing tools such as chatbots. But you can start experimenting with them to see if they’re right for your business while the dust settles.

Kim provides lots of tips and tricks in the webinar—check it out. Just keep an eye out for any policy updates in this space.

3. Protect your data: Make sure you’re only sharing your information with parties you choose.

Here’s something else you might be wondering right now: How can you keep track of where your data is shared through Facebook?

If you’ve used Facebook to log in to any apps, you may have already “agreed” to share your information with third parties. Whoops.

Luckily, Facebook’s new terms and privacy tools give you more visibility into what data is being collected, and—with some effort—they allow you to minimize the amount of data you give them access to.

PCMag shares a breakdown of how you can make sure you only share information with selected apps and websites:

  1. Go to your Facebook settings, and navigate to the Apps and Websites section.
  2. Check out the Active list of apps that you’re currently logged into through Facebook.
  3. If you no longer use or wish to share your information with an app, check the box next to its name, and then hit the Remove button.
screenshot of facebook privacy settings

At the end of the day, experts agree that Facebook isn’t going anywhere—especially for small businesses.

“There’s no platform on the planet that can provide the granular targeting to reach your target market so inexpensively,” Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith told NBC News.

“Even with the current climate regarding privacy issues, Facebook will continue to be a powerful marketing and advertising vehicle for the foreseeable future,” Brian Edmonson, founder of Internet Income Coach, tells us.

However you use Facebook, remember that transparency is everything. As data security concerns come to the forefront and begin to shape legislation, make sure you take the time to understand how your data is being used—and give customers that same courtesy.

Mohini Kundu Mohini Kundu is a news editor on the Gusto content team. She studied journalism at Northwestern University and started her career at The Huffington Post before embracing the #startuplife.
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