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Can you protect your business from Facebook's privacy lapses?

You know who you won’t find on this year’s list of the world’s most reputable companies? C’mon, say it with me now: Facebook. In fact, one study suggests that 60% of its users are thinking about quitting. (I have some problems with the research methodology. But, still… yikes!)

Now, if 60% of your customers said they were thinking of firing you, you’d sit up and take notice. And Facebook has done just that. The company has announced it will launch simpler privacy settings, though not everyone’s convinced that will solve the problem. For instance, the incomparable Dwight Silverman concludes:

“The root problem isn’t that Facebook’s privacy controls are too hard to navigate. At the core of this dilemma is that users must dive into them all too often to protect themselves from unilateral actions taken by Facebook.”

Now here’s the point: Facebook’s missteps are creating opportunity for other, smaller competitors. Because, if there’s one thing Facebook has taught us, it’s that people like using the web to keep in touch with their friends and associates, sharing photos, funny stories, and wacky YouTube videos. Some even like to do it when they’re sober. With over 400 million members – making Facebook the 3rd most populous country in the world – social isn’t going away anytime soon.

Don’t get sucked into this mess. Yes, you should learn whether Twitter or Facebook works better for your business – to say nothing of LinkedIn, Foursquare, Gowalla, QQ, ASmallWorld, and on and on and on. And, yes, social media marketing is here to stay. But, if you’re going to market using these sites – and it’s likely you should – make sure you take care of your customers’ privacy, too. You shouldn’t rely on the social network. But your customers should be able to rely on you. And who knows? One of these days, you just might make that list of reputable companies yourself.

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Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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