Facebook’s Image Problem

Now may be a good time for friends and families to rekindle their broken Facebook relationships since it appears Russia was behind much of the hostile engagement on the social network during the 2016 presidential election.

Apparently 10 million people on Facebook saw 3,000 Russian-backed sponsored posts before and after Election Day, fueling racial, religious and political divisiveness. Initial investigations also show that content was geo-targeted in key swing states that may have tipped the scales in favor of the GOP.

Photo credit: Cnet

The frenzy forced many to take action. Thirteen percent of Americans reported blocking or “unfriending” someone on social media because of their political postings, according to a survey by PRRI, with Democrats nearly three times more likely than Republicans (24 percent vs. 9 percent) to shut off opposite-minded friends and family.

It’s hard to quantify the actual impact of the ads. The bottom line is that Trump supporters came out in full force on Election Day, and Hillary Clinton failed to win over white women and female voters without a college education.

Whether the “news” was fake or not, the content fueled an inherent bias on both sides of the proverbial aisle. Moreover, after the 2012 presidential race, the Republican Party ignited its online presence and get out the vote operations that most likely help propel Donald Trump to victory.

No doubt Facebook has an image problem. Shares of the $500B social media giant started to rise from earlier in the week when the stock took a hit from its 52-week high of $175.49, closing at $172.23 on Friday.

The brouhaha led Facebook founder Mark Zukerberg to post a Yom Kippur-inspired mea culpa, writing, “For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask forgiveness and I will work to do better.”

Things may only get worse for Facebook if and when Zuckerberg testifies before Congress or the slew of investigations into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election show the social network at fault. Zuckerberg, however, has repeated many times Facebook’s platform for candidates to communicate directly to voters had a much greater impact that any misinformation on the network.

Facebook fosters engagement unlike any other social network. That engagement needs to be free of any censorship for it to work best. But with more than two billion active monthly users, and more than 200 million in the U.S. alone, there certainly isn’t any shortage of opinion.

Most times people believe what they want on social media regardless of any fact checking. The paradox is that that two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) say they get at least some of their news from social media. In the end, Facebook will recover from this so-called crisis. The network is engrained in the social fabric of American politics, sort of like the ubiquitous seatbelt. People need to be more open-minded to determine what’s fake “news” and what’s not. Unless that changes, stand by for more of the same in 2020.

 

Is LinkedIn the New Facebook?

LinkedIn these days seems to be less about posting “business” content and more around publishing selfies, memes and math puzzles.

Ironically, these Facebook-like posts generally get more traction. But all engagement is not always good engagement, just like all publicity is not always good publicity.

Interestingly enough, the Pew Research Center found that more workers ages 18-49 have discovered information on social media that lowered their professional opinion of a colleague, compared to those who garnered an improved estimation of a co-worker from online platforms. So, be careful what you post.linkedin_and_facebook

LinkedIn prides itself on “connecting the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” What’s happened, however, is the line between “work” and “consumer” content has been blurred, causing LinkedIn professionals to lambast what they see as irrelevant posts, stating: “This is not Facebook!”

The reality is that LinkedIn is competing with Facebook. Late last year, Mark Zuckerberg’s social network announced it was testing a feature that would let page administrators create job postings and receive applications from candidates. This undoubtedly will put pressure on LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions business, which comprised 65 percent of the company’s 3Q 2016 revenues.

With 467 million members in over 200 countries and territories, LinkedIn, now owned by Microsoft, is growing at a rate of more than two new members per second. This quails in comparison to Facebook’s 1.79 billion monthly active users, but the company’s growth shows more professionals see value in the platform.

So what does the future look like for LinkedIn? Consider the following:

  • LinkedIn will become an even more valuable business networking tool among business professionals, surpassing Pew’s estimate of the 14 percent of professionals who use the online platform for work-related purposes.
  • “Irrelevant” posts will continue, at least in the short term, but will have an adverse effect on those who publish non-related content.
  • Thoughtful, engaging and pertinent posts that resonate with key audiences will generate positive engagement.
  • Business organizations and individuals will learn how to leverage this network beyond recruitment and job searches.

Much can be said by the old adage “all work and no play …,” so it’s refreshing to see some brevity in our daily work lives. But these matters may be best suited for Facebook and not LinkedIn.

Reader Beware: More Online News Stories Dubbed as Ads

The line between editorial and advertising has become increasingly blurred, as sorely needed revenues are forcing struggling news organizations to find new money streams.

For online news outlets, native advertising is emerging as a solution in today’s Internet-based media landscape. These sponsored ads, otherwise known as advertorials, are written as news stories, favorably positioning the advertiser.

 Sponsored content in 2013 from The Atlantic posting an ad for the Church of Scientology.


Sponsored content in 2013 from The Atlantic posting an ad for the Church of Scientology.

According to the Pew Research Center’s State of the Media 2014, the number of these types of ads will increase this year, as prestigious new organizations like the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, and others, have at least begun the process to implement sponsored content, which is expected to generate $2.29 billion in 2014, says eMarketer.

More of these “ads” are popping up in financial broadcast outlets since the SEC last year lifted its ban on alternative investment vehicles advertising to the general public as amendments to Rule 506 of Regulation D mandated by the JOBS Act.

Facebook has mastered the art of sponsored content with its “suggested posts” that pop up in news feeds.  These posts are meant to look and feel like generic updates from friends and not by advertisers because the ad content is selected based on user preferences. For example, if a person likes car racing, he or she may receive posts pertaining to an automotive manufacturer or retailer.

The concept is not new.  For years, advertorials appeared in news magazines and newspapers with the corresponding phrase, “special advertising supplement,” alerting readers that the content is an advertisement, although sometimes the ads slip by as editorial content.

The proverbial jury is still out, however. While many publishers have expressed concern over using sponsored content, including the Wall Street Journal’s Chief Editor Gerard Baker calling it a “Faustian pact,” the reality is that sponsored advertising is a necessary evil and a good solution for today’s media outlets, even though it may come disguised as an unbiased news story.