Some small companies that use Facebook advertising to promote themselves and attract new customers are struggling to change their strategy after the data abuse scandal.
The revelations that Cambridge Analytica gathered personal information from 87 million Facebook users made some people and small businesses nervous. Small business owners do not want customers to connect their ads to Cambridge Analytica or be unnerved by using their data.
But even cautious owners, especially those who try to reach a broad audience with a small advertisement budget, say that they have to go where their customers are ̵
"While thinking about deleting Facebook, I understand the importance and scope of Facebook to maintain an open communication channel with our customers," says Mike Seper, owner of Eco Adventure Ziplines. The New Florence, Mo, company runs adventure trips for people who glide over 50 or 250 feet above the ground floating cables.
Seper is worried that Facebook users will see their ads and then see other users' political posts, or ads may falsely believe they are connected. "We just do not want that association," says Seper, who has done the most advertising on Facebook. He will continue to post videos on his company's Facebook page, but instead advertise on Google and use more traditional methods such as postcards, brochures and print ads.
Small business owners must also remember that many people are aware of data loss or being more cautious about their online behavior.
Breakout, which runs 44 "Escape Room" venues, reduces the use of reminders that Facebook sends to people starting a booking but not completing it. The strategy persuades many people to book a different time slot – but it could also make them feel like they are being persecuted, says Digital Marketing Director Drew Roberts.
"People who are not familiar with how it works could be a bit twisted," says Roberts.
Breakout has also cut its Facebook advertising budget by 50 percent in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but it will not give up on an effective way to reach customers.
"It excels us when we open new locations," says Drew. Like other advertisers, Breakout can use the data that Facebook has available to target specific demographic and geographic regions and ensure that it reaches the people most interested.
Facebook has apologized to those who have abused the data and say they restrict app developers' access to people's information. The company has 10 million small businesses with Facebook pages in the US and 6 million advertisers, most of them small businesses; CEO Mark Zuckerberg was quoted earlier this month that he does not believe the company has seen a significant impact on the scandal-related advertising spend.
Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne acknowledges the concerns of some owners, including those who target advertising groups, but said Facebook does not share their information or that of their customers with anyone.
"Protecting people's information is a top priority," Osborne said Wednesday. "We said earlier that if we can not, we will not earn the right to their information."
Elisa Vazquez, who helps companies to run their social media marketing and advertising campaigns, does not want to say their customers' customers and potential clients can be abused. It places fewer ads and targets a wider audience, which means fewer Facebook users are being targeted for demographic data.
"For how many years have you said that no data has been leaked?" Says Vazquez, Social Media Director of Elevate My Brand, a Los Angeles-based online marketing company. "I want to be careful."
Facebook explains what it did to protect user data, has reassured Ekiria Collins, owner of Yorkies of Houston. The breeder of Yorkshire Terrier makes about three-quarters of her Facebook and Instagram advertising, and estimates that about 80 percent of her clients find and contact her business through Facebook.
Collins says she worries about her clients' privacy, but "I'm confident Facebook has explored privacy and implemented programs to make sure that does not happen again."
Others are not convinced. Oliver Coen, a London-based watch company, generates more than 80 percent of its sales in the US and puts half of its advertising dollars on Facebook. Founder David Murphy has cut the company's Facebook budget by 5 percent because he's still worried that users' personal information will be shared with third parties.
"I would be surprised if it were unique," he says of the Cambridge Analytica situation.
Murphy considered leaving Facebook, but also sees no advertising alternative that would have the same reach.
But the company that operates the Alameda County Fair, not far from California's Silicon Valley, does not see privacy as a problem. And the number of followers on his Facebook page has increased by 5 percent since a year ago.
"We are not worried – perhaps because we live in a place that is so data driven in Silicon Valley," says Angel Moore, vice president of business development, Alameda County Fair Association. "No matter what we do, data is collected."