Social Media: The Wedgie of the Internet
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?