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June 14, 2010

Social Media: The Wedgie of the Internet

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Everyone is getting their panties in a bunch about Facebook and Twitter these days. Everybody has an opinion on what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong, if they should make a profit, how they should make a profit, and on and on.

I admit, when it comes to the privacy issue, I’m not an advocate for some of the things Facebook has been doing. The amount of information I share with people who I know even in the real world is carefully monitored, so proclaiming to the planet my whereabouts, age and interests seems like a perfect opportunity for some sicko or thief to commit a crime.

But when it comes to the topic of businesses making profit, I’m a fan. Just because our social media networks let us use them for free, doesn’t mean we should treat them as anything other than what they really are: businesses. And let me remind you that we all choose to be a part of those businesses.

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For example, when we agree to Facebook’s terms and conditions, we’re in their territory. What I do think Facebook is doing wrong is not being transparent enough about updates. Not allowing people to control their privacy outright by sweeping changes under the rug is not a good way to make friends. Yes, it irks me – but not enough to delete my account. Nowadays, I just stay on top of what they’re up to so I am in control of my account.

If you don’t like what Facebook and Twitter are doing, go somewhere else. Make a statement by not participating in their business. When you’re in a bad relationship, you break up — and then, magically, you don’t have to deal with that person’s baggage anymore. On the other hand, if you’re more of a let’s-work-things-out kind of person, then you can fight and complain and badger until finally the other party gives in due to sheer exhaustion. I guess democracy is a part of capitalism and relationships, no matter how you slice it.

And speaking of democracy and social media, on a side note, did you see this promo courtesy of Chris Kelly, democratic candidate for California attorney general? My favorite part is they actually push Kelly’s credentials as the “top legal counsel at Facebook” — and this is why he’s qualified to “protect consumers from rip-offs”? (Insert chuckle here.)

Gary Vaynerchuck had a recent video post with an interesting point about Facebook’s privacy issue. We’re so focused on it that some potentially huge news slipped through the cracks. He points out that a company of Facebook’s size will often adjust to taste (which it did) — but while that’s happening, we’re ignoring the fact that Facebook recently signed a five-year deal with Zynga, the company that brings you all those popular and sometimes-annoying (Farmville, anyone?) apps you like to use. The deal will result in Facebook retaining 30 percent of the game company’s profit, and Gary’s forecast is that it will center around “credits” in the future.

The reality is that our social media outlets do sometimes need to work on things, but look on the bright side, they’re also trying to make our experiences richer. In the NYT blog post, Will Twitter Twist the Timeline?, it says Twitter hinted at the fact that it might be delivering information in new ways, not just in the static, chronological timeline we’ve been accustomed to. The post reports Twitter’s co-founder Biz Stone said Twitter should be able to deliver the news you need, when you need it, like real-time commuting information. Companies that already identified this type of need such as TweetUp and Cadmus are allowing users to manipulate the way they receive their info on Twitter.

Another potential useful update includes the addition of metadata into Twitter posts. In the Twitter Makes Itself More Useful post at NYTimes.com, it reports on how this functionality could allow someone to search for restaurants nearby based on specific criteria via an app that works in partnership with Yelp, for example.

But even though companies like Facebook and Twitter are adding new features and preserving the apps people like to use, the wedgie is still imposing itself upon the opposition. News like Twitter’s ban of third-party advertisements has people pulling bunched panties out of cracks everywhere. The news comes on the heels of the new Promoted Tweets initiative, where companies buy ad space to be displayed at the top of a feed. One benefit to advertisers is that their promotions won’t get lost amongst potentially thousands of tweets at any given time — and that can be good for consumers, too.

An April 13 Twitter blog post promises that ads will be carefully implemented and shown based on resonance to the user. These ads will be placed into feeds of followers to the brand (Starbucks and Virgin America are among the first to use this new feature), and can be retweeted and replied to but will be distinctly marked as “promoted.”

In the Tech Crunch article, Twitter to Prohibit Any Third Party to Advertise In-Stream, it features direct quotes from Twitter on its reasons for the ban, citing that third-party networks aren’t “necessarily looking to preserve the unique user experience Twitter has created” and that these third parties “may optimize for either market share or short-term revenue at the expense of the long-term health of the Twitter platform.” So basically, Twitter is looking to make profit, stay competitive and ensure the experience is branded and relevant to the user. That’s not so bad, is it?

So here are my points: 1) We live in America where businesses have the right to make profit; 2) Our capitalistic society allows businesses to do what they must to stay competitive; and 3) If we choose to be a part of that business’ services, we may have to give a little in order to get. If we have to see an ad here and there so we can enjoy the many benefits that the social media communities offer, then so be it. The fact is, we’re inundated with ads in every other aspect of our lives, so what’s one more place?







12 responses to “Social Media: The Wedgie of the Internet”

  1. Brian - PPC Management writes:

    Jessica,

    What is this, clear-minded, thoughtful posting regarding a business’s right to run their show how they see fit?

    I thought we were in the days where the mob whines and rules?

    Excellent writing.

    Thanks.

  2. Andy @ FirstFound writes:

    I broadly agree, although the “This is America” argument isn’t really a deal breaker when we’re talking about companies that operate across the world.

  3. Jessica Lee writes:

    Thanks for the comment, Andy, and for the additional perspective. I was specifically commenting on some very prominent U.S. businesses because I think it’s ironic sometimes that we as a society value the entrepreneurial spirit yet tend to condemn companies that offer services like social media because we want it for free. Truth is, nothing is free and if it were, capitalism in our country would be dead.

  4. Jessica Lee writes:

    Thank you, Brian, for taking the time to read and comment! We certainly appreciate it!

  5. SEO Reseller writes:

    Although privacy is a touchy subject, I’d have to admit, that Facebook and Twitter has provided good service so far. They just really have to work on how they approach their users and update them thoroughly on what they are “really” planning. I wouldn’t care much about seeing ads. I’ve managed to go through life seeing ads in television, I see no difference here, except that social media ads won’t be interrupting my regularly scheduled program that much.

  6. Jessica Lee writes:

    LOL, well put! I totally agree with you. Thanks for being a part of the discussion.

  7. Chris Miller writes:

    An easy solution to online privacy is if you don’t have something nice to say (to the world), then don’t post it online. Solves all privacy issues.

    In business though, I see privacy is a huge road block. The more information the platform allows to share, the more opportunities for leads. I sincerely hope this drama over privacy is merely a phase.

  8. Jessica Lee writes:

    Hi, Chris, thanks for the comment. And I agree. I think sometimes people are oblivious to the amount of information others can access about them online. And for those who understand that, why put anything out there that would be compromising? I see your point with the business aspect of it all. I’m sure innovative social media companies will find creative ways to turn profit no matter what the roadblock.

  9. Chris Miller writes:

    I think we’re in for a big online-culture shift once the younger generation convinces us adults that it’s ok to share info online, because since everybody else does, it’s not really any less private than it was before. That’s when social media is really gonna take off.

    I caught a little bit of Webmaster Radio today, I forgot who was being interviewed, but he was talking about how social media is bringing the internet back to it’s roots of making real connections, and how humans need interaction with real people not just information. I think that’s true, and once people (the online culture) realize privacy is what is holding them back from making those new connections, people will be more open to sharing.

  10. Jessica Lee writes:

    That’s an interesting thought. Funny, feels like human interaction via face to face is slowly fading, so maybe people are looking to make their online interaction more human to fill a void. Thanks again for sharing!

  11. Stacy writes:

    Excellent article! I also agree with most of the points you make. These social media outlets are businesses and at some point they do have to make money so they can stay in business and we can continue to use the service. However they do need to be mindful of the trust the consumer has put on them and honor that as best as they can as they grow. Facebook has not been doing this.

  12. Jessica Lee writes:

    Glad you liked it, Stacy. And thanks for jumping into the conversation!



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