Facebook's 3 Customers
So much talk about Facebook these days – in the news, in the office, on the playground. Like it or not, it’s become ubiquitous.
In a single day two weeks ago, I went from watching Congress grill Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg on a live-stream from my office, to learning just a few hours later from my social team that one of our client’s Facebook accounts had been put on hold due to a “suspicious credit card on file” (an account with the same corporate credit card in use for over a year), followed by a client meeting in the afternoon where I was asked if we expect audiences to become more skeptical of advertising as a whole because of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The thought that Facebook’s news could drastically impact the role of advertising, media-agnostically, seemed excessive.
Then, three days later I read an article in Time Magazine titled, “The Facebook Defect,” written by David Kirkpatrick, Founder and CEO of Techonomy Media and author of The Facebook Effect.
I highly recommend reading the article in its entirety, but one of the highlights was exploring Facebook’s actual customer.
Average Joe, An Ad Exec and a Congressman walk into a bar…
AVERAGE JOE AKA THE USER
Zuckerberg has said Facebook’s mission is “helping people understand the world around them.” His top priority is the social mission of connecting people. Yet, he admitted in an interview for the Freakonomics podcast, “the world is today more divided than I would have expected for the level of openness and connection that we have.”
Question #1: Is Facebook’s objective today to serve and protect the people that use it?
Enter Sheryl Sandberg, current Facebook Chief Operations Officer. She joined the company in 2008 after much success at the helm of Google’s advertising platform. It is said that early on at Facebook, she wrote on a whiteboard in big letters, “WHAT BUSINESS ARE WE IN?” That question already implies Facebook is a business, not an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) as Zuckerberg’s statements would have it seem.
It sounds like a classic chicken and egg riddle:
Their business, like all businesses, is to make money. Their data for more precise targeting is an advertisers dream. And earning $21 billion this year after taxes off $55 billion in revenue (a 40% profit margin) makes it the most profitable company of its size in the history of capitalism. I’d say business is good.
Their purpose is to connect people. The way to do that is by growing their user base. The more people that join Facebook, the more people Facebook has to protect in order to keep them from exiting. This growing product takes manpower to operate. If the Facebook platform is free to its over 2 Billion users worldwide, how does it pay to employ the talent it needs to operate?
Question #2: Which carries more weight – their business or their purpose?
Enter Governments. Facebook currently operates in over 190 countries. Each of them likely to bring down new regulations with Zuckerberg’s acknowledgment on April 10 that he agrees Facebook is “responsible for the content” on the service. The fact of the matter is that, regardless of what Zuckerberg’s intentions were or are with Facebook, once tech tools are created for humans, no one can control what humans will do with them. Governments will of course try, but we will have to wait to see what regulations will come down and, more importantly, where the oversight will come from.
Personally, as a user, an advertiser and a constituent –what a crossroads!
For Question #3 I’ll ask you the same question I asked myself: which role do you think you can have the most impact in – as a user, an advertiser or a constituent?
Is your business at odds with its purpose? Make sure you have the right strategic partner helping to navigate the reciprocal nature of the two. If you aren’t sure what your answer is to this question or any of the previous ones, reach out to us at Texas Creative. We love a good challenge.
Bonus Question: Can persuasive tech engineer our brains to be better humans?
After you read the article I referenced from this month’s Time Magazine, check out another fascinating read in the same publication, “The Masters Of Mind Control,” written by Haley Sweetland Edwards. It highlights Silicon Valley’s programming of human behavior. It will shake you at your core and, at the same time, perhaps give you some hope for the future.