New technologies are often easily misunderstood, and this lack of understanding can create an air of skepticism. A very public recent example of this is Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data scandal. This event shed light on two areas that the general public, including Facebook users, previously had little insight on: third-party apps using personal data, and how this data could be used by artificial intelligence (AI) tools.
AI and Marketing
While machine learning and AI seem unfamiliar, these technologies are not exactly new. Machine learning has been used for years; before the recent proliferation of machine learning as an industry buzzword, companies like Netflix have leveraged these technologies to analyze data sets that provide insight into customer preferences and behaviors at scale. More recently, marketing automation solutions have developed to improve customer experiences, informed by the wealth of information available from interactions during all stages of the customer journey.
These solutions have been broadly adopted due to their efficiency in managing interactions and eliminating friction for consumers to make decisions. Marketing automation platforms use customer data and preferences to cater the timing of messages, respond to support requests, and provide relevant product and account information. These services are delivered by the powerful artificial intelligence algorithms that are at the core of leading marketing automation solutions.
Other AI tools have allowed enterprises to make better decisions in the areas of supply chain management, logistics, and even healthcare. Innovators have applied machine learning to make sense of the vast amount of data available in order to shorten production cycles, deliver packages, and analyze large data sets in research scenarios. As beneficiaries of these advances, enterprises realize how intelligent systems can lead to faster, more informed business decisions and customized user experiences.
Third-Party Apps and Consumer Expectations
As it pertains to third-party apps, confusion occurs when platform users do not understand what data is being collected and with whom that data is being shared. In Facebook’s situation, user data was rather blatantly mishandled, so the community was critical and expected clarity from company leadership.
The steps that Facebook executed to maintain user trust went beyond a public relations management response. Instead, they addressed user concerns directly with specific changes to their platform. Two points that were particularly telling in terms of usage of third-party apps on the Facebook platform involved self-management and increased vetting.
Going forward Facebook will make it easier for users to visualize and control third-party apps that are connected their accounts. While users have always had a means to control data they’ve permitted these apps to use, some users were not aware of these management features. By encouraging users to play a more active role in controlling their data accessed by third-party apps, Facebook is taking strides to increase transparency.
Facebook’s development team also spoke to user concerns by pausing approval of new third-party apps and increasing due diligence of business-to-business apps, Since the source of Facebook’s recent woes centered on the rogue behavior a third-party app on their platform, the company was compelled to directly address user concerns about nefarious apps. More rigorous screening of these apps will serve to avoid poor behavior and support user trust.
Together, these two aspects of Facebook’s platform changes demonstrate how user trust and comfort inform overall business and design decisions.
AI Going Forward
Facebook’s response is important to marketers because it reinforces the lesson that consumer trust is vital and that user concerns are valid in situations where this trust is compromised. While usage of third-party apps is separate and distinct from Facebook’s usage of AI tools, the two are related in the discussion of handling customer data. As Facebook continues to use AI to customize the user experience, they will undoubtedly continue to communicate how their platform uses customer data.
Instead, they are advancing and proliferating. Customers will still enjoy the benefits of smooth, individualized experiences driven by AI tools, and marketers will continue to use these tools to engage their audiences while clearly communicating how customer data is being handled. Attentive marketers will focus on treating customer data with the utmost confidentiality and view this as a responsibility that forges links in the chain of trust between the companies and their customers.