Yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took out full-page ads in several U.S. and U.K. newspapers, apologizing for the company’s role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
If you’re not up-to-date on current events: Cambridge Analytica is accused of using the personal data of 50 million Facebook users to bolster Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, in violation of Facebook’s terms of service. (That’s an extremely streamlined version. You can see a more comprehensive timeline here.)
Facebook says that the data was gathered and shared outside the scope of what it allows. Cambridge Analytica says that it didn’t use the data in Trump’s campaign. Users are in revolt, canceling or threatening to cancel their accounts, and Facebook is attempting to manage a PR nightmare.
“We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can’t, we don’t deserve it,” Zuckerberg said in the ads. He promised to do better for users.
However, it remains to be seen whether Facebook’s mea culpa can halt its slide. The company lost nearly $50 billion in value last week and continued reaping bad press, with influencers like Elon Musk deleting their pages.
This could, of course, be a blip. But if it’s not, a permanent decline potentially affects more than just Facebook executives and shareholders.
Will Facebook’s Problems Affect Your Job?
The company currently employs over 25,000 workers and many non-Facebook employees depend on the social network for their livelihood.
How many non-Facebook employees? Well, that’s a harder number to determine. In 2015, a Facebook-sponsored study conducted by Deloitte showed that the social media giant had created 4.5 million jobs and added $227 billion to the world economy in 2014 alone.
A Facebook-sponsored study conducted by Deloitte showed that the social media giant had created 4.5 million jobs and added $227 billion to the world economy in 2014 alone.
Some critics were skeptical of that tally, however. At Entrepreneur, Ray Hennessey pointed out several potential problems with the report’s conclusions, starting with the fact the project was paid for by Facebook, which provided much of the data, and that it includes “connectivity effects,” meaning infrastructure improvements to support use of Facebook, like broadband and new devices.
Job creation, from an economic standpoint, isn’t a game of hard-and-fast numbers. For instance, in the connectivity category, Facebook is given direct credit for the expansion of the Internet infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region. That growth may have happened whether Facebook existed or we were all still talking to Tom on MySpace. Or, it could have happened because of the need to communicate more effectively for other economic reasons. Emerging markets have been emerging before social media, and will continue to do so.
However, he also noted that Facebook has a powerful reach, and is beloved by advertisers. (Per Facebook’s numbers, the site boasts over a billion daily users.) And that’s where things get sticky, if users don’t accept Zuckerberg’s apology.
If users share their data less openly — or regulation enforces those restrictions for them — the service could become less valuable to advertisers and marketers.
“If advertisers were suddenly unable to target certain segments, because of regulation—such as political affinities, income or wealth accumulation, or race/age/gender—that might challenge advertisers to look elsewhere for options,” said James Douglas, head of media at Reprise, a digital agency owned by Interpublic Group of Cos, to The Wall Street Journal.
Theoretically, that could have a negative impact on jobs like social media managers, ad managers and other marketing roles that depend on Facebook.
Or: those jobs could migrate to the next platform or service that allows them to get insight into user behavior. Only time will tell.
The takeaway for workers is nothing new: keep your finger on the pulse of your profession and be ready to upgrade your skills at a moment’s notice. There’s no telling when today’s Facebook will become tomorrow’s MySpace.
Tell Us What You Think
Do you rely on Facebook for your job? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.