3 Social Media Data Lessons in the Wake of Cambridge Analytica

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As the Cambridge Analytica scandal continues to weigh heavily on Facebook and other social media platforms, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the real cost — in personal information, not cash — of their “free” participation in online interactions.

Similarly, companies and brands that rely on social media interactions and consumer goodwill are beginning to better grasp the true complexity of maintaining those relationships.

Related: 4 Ways to Reinvent the Facebook/Google Data Model in the Wake of Cambridge Analytica

Let’s discuss the three main lessons we should take away from our observations of such unethical behavior.

1. Awareness is the beginning.

The Cambridge Analytica revelations certainly convinced consumers of the potentially far-reaching consequences of sharing personal information with third parties. But they also impacted the brands that depend on direct social media contact with consumers.

So far, much of the commentary on the Cambridge Analytica scandal has focused on the risks posed by seemingly unscrupulous and opportunistic third-party data harvesters. Relatively little attention, however, has been devoted to a potentially broader threat to ecommerce: the chilling effect of viewing all “third parties” in the same way.

Whether it is the EU’s sweeping General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) now in full force or the downstream consequences of recent US Congressional hearings into Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, it’s increasingly important for companies to fully understand how social media interactions with mass consumer bases actually work in a technical sense and to question how they can be more responsible stewards of their customers’ data.

2. Fair exchange increases consumer willingness.

To simply stop collecting and using consumer data would be both unrealistic and counterproductive.

As technology has evolved — along with customers’ expectations — businesses have had to become more agile. They are adopting increasingly sophisticated methods of gathering and analyzing customer data, which enables their marketing teams to fine-tune their sales strategies based on genuine insights from individuals.

Even beyond sales, this type of real-time interaction between a brand and its consumers has profoundly changed how companies and consumers interact, particularly affecting business areas like troubleshooting and loyalty programs.

As these interactions have increased in number, consumers have become more comfortable with the data footprints they leave. One recent survey indicated that 87 percent of online shoppers are willing to trade personal information for…