In perhaps one of the few (only?) times that Twitter is grateful not to be the size and scale of Facebook, Inc., it announced this week that it “accidentally” shared user data with third-party measurement vendors and advertisers against users’ wishes. Despite users being able to adjust their ad setting permissions to not share data, Twitter released that user data in certain instances to these third parties. Not coincidentally, Twitter also announced that it is cutting off access for advertisers to leverage third-party data providers within Twitter’s Ads Manager platform to hone ad targeting.
Facebook, Inc. isn’t spared this week, though. It came to light that HYP3R, a location-based marketing platform, has been hoarding public Instagram user and location data for years, à la Cambridge Analytica. HYP3R has since been removed from the Facebook, Inc. partner ecosystem, but it’s unclear what the fate is of the user data already stored.
Here’s the rub: Facebook, Inc. and Twitter may try to trim the roster of third-party marketing partners in an attempt at quality control and removing the numerous tentacles accessing and retrieving data from the social networks. But these social media behemoths remain heavily reliant on their partners to innovate social media overall, offer capabilities and services that the social networks themselves can’t provide, and — most importantly — extend users’ and brands’ social networking usage beyond the walls of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
Social networks must step up their governance and ongoing oversight of their rogue marketing partner ecosystems. Pessimistically, this will only accelerate with more public embarrassments like the above and will be a very gradual (and likely subpar) implementation. So what does the future look like for the social network marketing partner ecosystem?
- Fewer — and more heavily vetted — partners
- No new entrants into the partner ecosystem, as it will be harder to get approved
- Less choice for brands and advertisers marketing on social networks
- Further consolidation and contraction in the social technology and services industry
- Concentrated power in a smaller group of tech and service partners
- Fewer options and higher prices (and lower innovation)
What it means for marketers: A downsized Facebook and Twitter marketing partner roster will not break social marketing or advertising. Sure, marketers will endure more volatility as the social networks blindly figure it out on the fly (Mark Zuckerberg’s infamous “Move fast and break things” policy manifesting with real consequences). But if these acute teenage growing pains get us to a more secure user data environment, the entire ecosystem will be better off — users, marketers, and the social networks themselves.