It’s no secret that Facebook has been under a microscope recently. The concept of data collection is front-and-center in today’s dialogue about social media marketing. No matter your take on the data misuse allegations, it’s clear that Facebook’s woes could have a major impact on businesses that use the platform for marketing, particularly smaller businesses who rely on it heavily. According to Small Business Trends, almost 80 percent of U.S. small businesses use Facebook in their marketing efforts.
Henry Chen is one of those business owners. Early in 2016, Henry partnered with his friend Brian to create the digital marketing agency 8 Ave Media. Their goal was to provide a marketing service that allowed e-commerce business owners to scale their businesses quickly, and save valuable time and energy. “It was amazing how many stories we heard about business owners getting screwed over by marketers, agencies, or other self-proclaimed marketing gurus,” says Henry. “The market needed a change. So we started 8 Ave Media, the only marketing agency for small businesses that offered a money-back guarantee. If we couldn’t prove a certain ROI, our customers wouldn’t have to pay.”
Henry and Brian brought their own investment capital and years of corporate digital marketing experience to the table, and 8 Ave shot off the line. Its first clients saw rapid results and 8 Ave’s customer base grew steadily. That is until earlier this year when the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica story began making headlines. As a small marketing business serving other small businesses, 8 Ave has been at the epicenter of the Facebook fallout.
“Facebook’s issues are having a huge impact on our business,” says Henry. “We’ve lost over half of our customers and have seen a huge decrease in potential customer leads.”
Small business owners, like Henry’s clients, are worried that using targeted ads based on demographic data will make their customers feel like they are being tracked. Many are making an effort to market to a wider, less-specific audience in hopes of avoiding negative association with the scandal. Others are simply dialing back the number of reminders and ads they run. “We’ve had to completely reshape our email strategies, our pricing model, and even our company structure,” laments Henry.
In recent weeks, talk of the impending reckoning that awaits Facebook has marketers like 8 Ave Media wondering if users will delete their accounts en masse, especially as businesses pull their marketing dollars. But even amidst the crippling storm, Henry is optimistic.
“What Facebook did was wrong, but I think their response to the crisis has been good,” says Henry, who adds that Facebook is simply too ingrained in the world of small business marketing to be going anywhere any time soon. While Henry admits that people finally realize the internet is no safe haven for their personal information, he says it’s unlikely the social media giant will be crippled in the long term.
For Henry, there just isn’t a platform out there right now that can come close to the reach that Facebook wields. So while the small business world waits for another option to emerge, or regulation to be passed, Facebook remains part of many small business marketing strategies around the country.