Tags: Facebook, Robert Scoble, Social network
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by Frank Reed
Privacy is an illusion when it comes to Facebook. All of this talk about how Facebook listens and has heard the cry of the dear Facebook faithful is bunk. I hope the world isn’t gullible enough to think that the greater good is the first priority of this company. Honestly, it’s not the first priority of most companies, so why would Facebook be any different? Bottom line is that Facebook is about money. They need to make it and they need to do whatever they have to in order to make it.
Here are just a few observations.
Facebook is as Facebook does. Like Forrest Gump’s momma told him, “Stupid is as stupid does,” the same applies to Facebook. Stomp your feet, pound your fists and shout from the mountaintops about your take or angle on this Facebook hoopla–it just is what it is. Facebook needs to get their information in the open for marketers to spend money with them. They will stop at nothing to get to that end.
The little person is who really matters here. We talk amongst our industry selves about our outrage at (or indifference to) Facebook’s privacy antics. While the industry is influential, it is not truly representative of the supposed 450 million or so users of Facebook. The VAST majority of Facebook users don’t even know this stuff is happening, and guess what? Facebook is banking on this reality because there will be enough of their user base who remain clueless that can be led around by a leash to the altar of “openness” and thus give certain advertisers just what they need: a well-defined demographic that will pay attention to their ads.
Money talks. All of this altruistic talk about contributing to the world by helping everyone communicate etc., etc., is great fodder for the PR department but at the end of the day this whole thing is about money. As a result, people will do things that will trample others’ altruism because when money is on the line, not everyone can be made happy.
You have to make your own call. As marketers, it will be on each individual decision maker to decide whether Facebook is a good place to be. Whether you trust Facebook enough to get fully engaged is your call. Heck, even one of the biggest Mark Zuckerberg fanboys, Robert Scoble, is holding back. If we sit around and listen to each other dissect each and every time Mark Zuckerberg and his team breaks wind, then we are going to get what much of social media produces: lots of activity and little action. Let’s avoid that.
Self preservation drives it all. Please let’s not lose sight of the fact that there is plenty on the line for relatively small numbers of people regarding Facebook’s success. Just as when Michael Lewis (author of The Blind Side, Moneyball and other books) said on 60 Minutes that only 10-20 people knew about how the financial meltdown in the US was going to happen, it’s the same way for Facebook. There is a small group of investors and invested individuals who stand to make “generational wealth” if Facebook becomes the advertising and marketing machine it aspires to be. Don’t fool yourself that those folks are not going to do whatever they need to do to preserve this opportunity. By the way, in order for this opportunity to see its fullest potential they need your information to be available for use by businesses. Oh, and they also need to do whatever they can to keep the government off their backs. This latest move will do just enough to slow that train until another approach can be crafted.
Having said all of that, the bottom line is this. Facebook is banking on providing advertisers with information about Facebook users. They have made a lot of mistakes along the way but do you really think they are done with this? No way.
They won’t (maybe even can’t) stop until your data is public in some way. Otherwise, what are they doing other than providing a way for people to communicate for free? I think we can all agree that free gets the door swung open but it can only stay open if someone pays for it. The only thing they will pay for is the data and opportunity which each Facebook account represents. Unless Facebook can deliver that information I’m not sure what’s next for Facebook. Maybe a Friendster- or MySpace-like case study in b-schools?
Personally, I am looking forward to a long weekend where I don’t have to think about Facebook unless I am using it rather than it using me.