Facebook; friend or foe?

Caught Emily Maitlis’ “Inside Facebook” on iplayer last night and really enjoyed it. I don’t mind admitting I’m into social media – it’s definitely in my blood and I’ve found the various channels I use helpful in their own way both for business and pleasure.

This programme disected the explosive growth in popularity of FB in a way other than the Hollywood film The Social Network did. For starters, we learned from Zuck’s room-mate (who made the multi-million decision not to join the business) that the film concentrated much more on the lawsuit with the Winklevoss twins than it should’ve and in doing so added some value to the movie but missed the point a bit.

So what exactly is the point? One point is that FB is going to float next year valuing the business at $100bn plus.  Another is that membership is more than the population of the USA and the EU combined and a lot of people have a lot of dollars at stake and this is most likely going to compromise the philanthropic intentions of founder Mr Zuckerberg.

And if that happens, if the dollars start to drive the culture rather than Zuck’s original “open/sharing” mission, then an awful lot of very personal information is going to turn into an awful lot of very targeted advertising.  Big brands are going to get well – at our expense.

Personally I don’t mind receiving targeted ads or even targeted cold calls.  Well-researched propositions with a genuine value are welcome here. What I object to is the targeting becoming a revenue earner for a third party based on personal information I’ve provided. “Like” a company and whether you like it or not, you’re on their FB page as an unpaid advocate.

If we become revenue makers without being revenue sharers then the honesty with which the Facebook was founded on is compromised.  Pay me for my personal information and I might just open up a bit more.  Steal it and I’ll go elsewhere.  Consumers must recognise the value of their loyalty and brands must recognise the importance of honesty.  Power is shifting from seller to buyer.  And if FB misses this trick it will fail in the long run.

With thumbs perma-hooked into slender jeans Ms Maitlis left us with the burning question that will decide FB’s future: Are we doing more for Facebook than Facebook is doing for us…..?


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