Is Facebook Making Your Site Less Trustworthy?

    May 26, 2011
    Chris Crum

It’s no secret that some people are uneasy with Facebook’s privacy practices, despite the company revising its policies repeatedly. Netpop has released an interesting study finding that 8 in 10 social media users feel “uneasy” or “ambivalent” about sharing personal information on social media sites.

Is Facebook’s presence throughout the whole web good or bad for inspiring trust? Comment here.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • 42% of social media users are “Uneasies” (concerned about privacy)
  • 38% … are “Ambivalents” (uncertain about privacy)
  • 20% … are “Laissez-Faires” (not concerned about privacy)

Social Media Privacy Concerns

“Social media is growing in the United States and around the world, prompting Internet users to share an ever-growing amount of personal information,” says Netpop. “Social media platforms are, of course, in the business of making it fun and easy to share more, and do more, with more people. But where does the information go? Who sees it? Who owns it? And how is it used? These questions become increasingly important as social media expand and sites like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin are driven to better leverage (and monetize) our information and social connections.”

“Findings reveal that the vast majority (80 percent) are uncertain or uneasy about the social sites they use,” the firm says. “This is particularly true of Facebook: 85 percent of Facebook users are either uncertain or explicitly concerned. Findings also show that privacy concerns and distrust bear a negative impact on social brands: Users have a significantly lower perception of social brands if they are concerned about privacy or distrust the site to use their information appropriately.”

Social Media Privacy

Compare the above attitudes about Facebook with those about Twitter:

Social Media Privacy

The study also found that users with privacy concerns rate social sites significantly lower in terms of the Net Promoter Score the report looks at, which is a comparison by level of trust that site uses shared information appropriately.

This is something to think about in all of the Facebook-connectedness of the web today. It’s gotten to the point where it is pretty hard to find a site that doesn’t use some kind of Facebook integration.

The fact is that it is simply too attractive to webmasters to use Facebook for a variety of reasons – engagement and traffic among the top. The study brings up an interesting point of discussion. Are some consumers trusting you less because of your Facebook and other social integration?

Keep in mind that Facebook came under more fire for privacy concerns when it rolled out its Open Graph initiative than arguably any other time in the company’s existence. Of course, the company has updated its privacy policies since then, but clearly a lot of people are still “uneasy”.

Facebook was already getting integrated into a good portion of the web before the launch of the Open Graph and “instant personalization,” but that, along with Facebook’s social plugins (most notably the “Like” button, really sent things into overdrive.

Considering it’s only been a little over a year since then, it’s quite incredible to note that you’d be hard pressed these days to find many credible sites that don’t have some kind of Facebook integration.

Facebook has a number of social plugins that sites can (and do) use:

  • The Like Button
  • The Send Button
  • Comments
  • Activity Feed
  • Recommendations
  • Like Box
  • Login Button
  • Registration
  • Facepile
  • Live Stream

Earch of these have potential benefits to a site, in terms of user engagement. No question. Given user “uneasiness” about Facebook, however, you may want to ask yourself how much of this stuff you really want on your site. Better yet, what combintation of this stuff will benefit your site the most, while keeping your audience and their possible concerns in mind. Perception goes a long way.

This info might help with thinking about audience:

Audience and perception

While a plugin like “Facepile” might be designed to actually add trust to a page, there are some users out there who may feel that their privacy has been violated because you are showing that you know who their friends are in the first place. Of course, it is not you that knows. It is Facebook (and for that matter, they have to be logged into FB in the first place), but not everybody understands this. Again, it’s about perception and audience.

Facebook's Facepile Social Plugin

To be clear, I am in no way suggesting anyone lessen their Facebook integration. It’s quite clear that the social network can do a lot to increase your traffic – not only directly, but indirectly through search. Facebook can also bring a level of engagement from your customers that just isn’t possible through other means.

I’m simply saying that if Facebook is making so may people uneasy, you might want to ask yourself if the majority of your audience is likely to fall into this category, and if so, are the benefits of Facebook integration worth bringing this kind of vibe to your own site? And to what extent? Something to consider.

I don’t expect the findings will sway too many site-owners away from Facebook integration, but perhaps it does highlight the need for giving consumers different options in terms of how they connect with your site.

Another study released this week, finds that 47% of Facebook users have profanity on their walls.

Are you concerned about how Facebook perception affects activity on your own site? Share your thoughts here.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.