What does Facebook’s privacy uproar mean for school PR?


Recently, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, chairman and chief executive officer, testified before Congress about privacy concerns. Lawmakers quizzed him about how users’ private information ended up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica, a political consultant that provided detailed profiles of voters to President Trump during his campaign.

This controversy shed light not only on the political consequences of sharing users’ data but also on Facebook’s core business practice of mining user information to target ads.

The amount of information that Facebook knows about each user makes some feel queasy. But are the parents, teachers, support staff and community members on our school district Facebook pages abandoning the platform because of this queasiness?

Money might provide the best, big-picture answer to this question. Privacy concerns were not enough to cut into Facebook’s bottom line. The company’s first-quarter report said profits jumped by 65 percent over the previous year.

On the micro-level, my district’s “likes” increased by 6.4 percent since January.

For school districts who don’t mind spending a little money to boost the engagement of their posts, the platform’s ability to use its data to target these ads can be quite useful.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg could have been talking about school district pages when she told investors in the company’s first-quarter earnings call that being able to target ads was beneficial to small advertisers.

“Effective advertising is . . . critical to helping businesses grow. This is especially important for small businesses who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to buy broad-reach media,” Sandberg said.

So, while you might personally have qualms about sharing your information on Facebook in light of recent controversies, the numbers show that the social media platform is still an incredibly useful communications tool for your school district.

4 Replies to “What does Facebook’s privacy uproar mean for school PR?”

  1. Another wrinkle to consider — many of the media outlets that have been criticizing Facebook the most loudly — have website widgets that collect browsing information from visitors. These sites are monetized based on our personal data, so consumer privacy in the digital world is a much larger conversation than many media outlets would have us think.

    1. Yes, agreed. If we want to avoid sharing personal data, we’re going to have to give up a lot more modern conveniences than people realize.

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