It’s been an ugly few days for Zuckerberg and Co., from Monday’s 6-hour global outage of Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, to Tuesday’s damning revelations from former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen that Facebook takes its priority of ‘profit over people’ to a disturbing new level.
Ms. Haugen’s accusations, heard the world over as she testified to U.S. Congress Oct. 5, followed her release of internal research documents showing Facebook’s knowledge of the harm it causes younger users in particular, and the continued leveraging of its massive earning potential at their expense.
The revelations are hard to hear and even harder to ignore, and it will be with great anticipation that we see how legislators proceed in developing and implementing stiffer regulations to govern the internet.
We cannot, however, disregard the success that emerging businesses and growing organizations have had in their use of social platforms like Facebook and Instagram to build awareness of their products and services, reach their customers, and connect individuals with the solutions they seek.
Far from dismissing the Facebook reality at hand, I am simply suggesting that for many smaller businesses, the larger issues facing the platform feel somewhat disjointed from their use of Facebook as a promotional medium.
Barring a blatant disregard of brand safety regulations, being present on Facebook and Instagram has allowed small-scale organizations to reach entirely new markets, evolve their business models, and often singlehandedly launch their brand or business.
Likewise, these platforms have permitted individuals and organizations alike to highlight global or industry injustice, shape their purpose, and bring new solutions to light.
Social platforms cannot hide from their increasingly imperative responsibility to protect and foster user wellbeing above shareholder profit. Nor can brands big or small continue to distance themselves from the very real issues in question, as their audiences will soon distance themselves in return – and permanently this time.
The moral of the story, harkening back to some age-old Reputation Management 101: Know and celebrate your brand values and purpose, utilize the tools at your disposal to do so – including social networks, and use your voice to press for change, spread good, and build trust.
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Want more? So do I.. it’s a juicy topic to be sure. And I’m reminded of a line a former boss of mine would often repeat: “Kelly, we can’t do good until we do well.”
As in, we can’t give things away for free, run purpose-driven campaigns or participate in charitable initiatives until we’re continuously (and arguably quite ridiculously) profitable.
But hey now. Don’t we know that to be one of the truest untruths ever told.
Until next time,