Social media has come a long way from Friendster and AOL Instant Messenger. Once used to simply connect with friends and family, social media has evolved into a marketing mammoth with an estimated $43.53 billion in revenue anticipated in the U.S. just in 2020. Now, there are so many platform options allowing marketers to meet a variety of target markets, and social media has become a vital marketing space. However, with widespread usage some big questions have been raised regarding the way these platforms operate and each platform’s responsibilities to its users. Let’s take a look at some of the big changes and questions coming out of social media today. Even though all of these don’t apply to marketing directly, it’s important to have a holistic view of what is going on in the space as it could affect the trust of users and advertisers on the platform, which could in turn impact impressions and the cost of ads.
That’s A Fact
There’s a lot of information being shared on social media. It’s common for people get their news from seeing what others are posting or share something they feel is important. Unfortunately, as we all know, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. This issue has been compounded by the fact that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and an election cycle. With misinformation (or disinformation) rampant in the social landscape, what responsibility do the platforms themselves have to make sure the content being asserted by prominent sources or public figures through their service is factual? Facebook and Twitter have opposing views. While Twitter has fact-checked political posts, Facebook actually exempts politicians from its fact-checking program and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “I don’t think that Facebook or internet platforms in general should be arbiters of truth.” No matter which way you lean on the fact-checking argument, it’s important to know that the current social media climate is exploring the extent of this type of responsibility to users.
While we’re on the topic of political speech, and with the November election swiftly approaching, many platforms are considering how to handle the upcoming flood of political ads. It looks as though Facebook will allow users to turn off political advertisements. Twitter has already banned political ads from its platform. TikTok, Twitch, Pinterest and LinkedIn also do not allow political advertising. Google has said it would limit audience targeting and the information that political advertisers can learn about potential target audiences.
It’s been a difficult road to hold mega platforms like Facebook accountable for misconduct. Brands want their content to be hosted in quality environments, and with so much disinformation and toxicity on the platform, it’s hard to argue that Facebook is cultivating a quality space. While outrage has occurred before, Facebook has always eventually been able to head back to business as usual. It might be different this time, however, as brands are recognizing that there is power in numbers. For the month of July, more than 500 blue-chip brands are participating in a boycott and have pulled their advertising and content contributions from Facebook in an effort to force the platform to make changes to their practices. That’s a huge blow to the social platform’s bottom line, and if the brands don’t see improvement and decide to not return, it could mean a huge purge of users who are there for quality content.
Stay On Top Of It
While not everything going on in social media directly affects marketing, it’s still important to remain well informed. Just recently our team had to certify that our clients adhered to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in order to keep marketing on social media. By being up to date we were able to get that process started right away, causing minimal disruption to our clients’ online presence. By following social news and having a holistic view of the space, marketers will be able to best serve their clients and anticipate usage and cost trends.