Facebook is behaving like any normal business faced with reputational damage…
Posted on 29th January 2018
As I’m sure you are aware, Mark Zuckerberg has announced that Facebook is going back to being a site where you could see your friends posts without being interrupted by a two minute hate posted by some political party’s supporters and other trolls.
I don’t know about you, but I started seeing far more friends’ posts even before they were supposed to have made the change, so it seems like this is working.
Since then, I have read that the Third Sector (i.e. charities) has concerns that these changes will seriously impact on their ability to get their messages out and, more importantly, the money they need for their good causes in. Perspicaciously, this article noted that they expect they will have to pay more money to get their message via Facebook ads. I think they may well be right.
From the business perspective, this change was reported in the popular press as meaning that commercial organisations’ posts would no longer clutter up your page, which has caused a bit of consternation amongst the aforementioned commercial organisations. As the UK advertising bible “Campaign” magazine says, “Facebook's decision to reprioritise its news feed to favour "social interactions" over other forms of content may please its users but will be challenging for brands.” They go on to note that, “While Facebook's announcement may, on the surface, appear to tackle the issue of the spread of fake news and click-bait, that will ultimately depend on a user's friendship circles. This may, in fact, increase the filter bubble effect as users only see posts shared predominantly by the people they interact with the most.”
There is a lot of use of the word “may’ in these quotes from Campaign. Meanwhile, Facebook themselves don’t seem to know exactly what impact this will have (apart from, they hope, getting them off the hook for all those unfortunate allegations of fake news influencing elections). Adam Mosseri, their VP News, is reported as saying he “didn’t have many concrete answers about how publishers should scramble to react beyond “experimenting … and seeing … what content gets more comments, more likes, more reshares.” Hum…
Perhaps the real reason for all this can be found in a report in the Times newspaper (and elsewhere, on Monday 22nd January), where it was “revealed” that “trust in social media has fallen to a record low* as Britons lose faith in companies such as Facebook and Twitter, according to research.” Bear in mind those last three (often weasel) words, because “research shows” all sorts of things. Also be aware of the fact that this article was as much to report the research’s findings that public trust in newspapers (who are at war with social media owners) is increasing and is much higher than their trust in social media. Then note that this “lack of trust” with social media fell from 28% in 2012 to 26% this year, so a majority was clearly never naïve about social media anyway.
I am certain the social media giants are very well aware of the direction of travel of the public mood and our disillusionment with the stories of fake news and the impact that social media might have on our mental health. Like any major business, the social media giants are simply responding by doing what they can to avoid damage to their reputations, while still ensuring that they have a financially secure future.
Finally, and I’m sorry to be slightly cynical, but they have been here before - see this article from 2016!
Let’s see what happens this time….
Michael Phair, Be-IT
Postscript: today’s newspapers have yet more social media stories. In the case of The Times main story it’s absolutely true that much more needs to be done to crack down on those who use the internet for grooming children. The Telegraph’s story about celebrity baker Paul Hollywood allegedly buying Twitter followers is an example of how people’s hubris when it comes to social media can lead to embarrassment further down the line. Hollywood is not alone in allegedly buying followers. It’s not unknown in many industries…
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