They say to "never build on rented land," but is that always true? And, if this is the case, why do we continue to put our personal and business' intellectual property on public platforms owned by third parties?
In the wake of GDPR and the great Facebook controversy of 2018 (when 87 million users' data was collected without consent), this is a great time to think about where you store your data, how you can maintain full control over it, and what improvements can be made to make your members feel safer. Some software hacks can't be avoided, but there is a certain safety blanket that comes with knowing a third party can't accidentally or intentionally leak your data.
The Problem with Using Public Social Media Platforms
On the front-end sales line here at Higher Logic, we often hear organizations are happy with using social media platforms as their main line of communication with and between their members. It's true, social media is great—it allows for member discussions, networking, and a casual environment for members to ask and answer each other's questions.
The not-so-great feature: you don't own any of that data—the owner would be Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or whatever other platform your members are engaging on. They are free to use your data as they please. And, as we’ve seen with Facebook ads and data use by third parties like Cambridge Analytica, your data isn’t always used in the way you want.
Do You Need a Private Secure Communication Channel?
To decide if your organization needs a more private communication channel than social media, consider these three advantages to owning your data:
1. It's YOURS!
This may seem obvious, but really consider what that means. You can collect it, run reports easily with it, use it for future campaigns, and you are the sole proprietor. Facebook is largely successful because of its ability to collect data and then use it to show members targeted ads and posts in their timelines, giving them a more personalized user experience.
But too much personalization can become a problem if they collect more data than users want. (To see if you’re uncomfortable with how much data Facebook has on you, you can download all the information they’ve collected.) Members are happier when they feel like their organization understands them and sends them only content relevant to them.
2. Build trust between you and your members.
On social media, members cannot post anonymously if they so desire, and anything they do post is used by Facebook for the aforementioned reasons. In a private setting on your website, only you have access to what they're saying, and members could request certain posts be taken down or anonymized. That may speak volumes to people who have become more and more skeptical about posting anything online because of privacy issues.
3. It's a chance to grow your revenue.
Making sure your members feel valued and you understand their interests is a sure-fire way to get them more involved in the organization by devoting more time and money. With all this valuable data, you could use marketing automation to send targeted emails and content to increase non-dues revenue (e.g. event registrations or donation campaigns). With Facebook or LinkedIn, you can't simply or quickly pull reports on members’ interests, comments and discussions, or connections made.
Weigh the Benefits of Social Media with Privacy and Data Risks
Choosing to use Facebook as the main form of communication with your members, aside from email, is not a bad choice. It is free and most people have a Facebook account nowadays so connecting is easy. However, there is a significant risk taken in giving someone else control and management over your data. It's important, now more than ever, to evaluate if your organization needs the extra protection that a private platform, such as an online community, offers or if social media provides a comfortable amount of safety for you and your members.
If a private platform sounds like a good fit for your organization, getting this project started now rather than later will give you significantly more data in the long run and more "land" to build on, so to speak.