Tag - facebook

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Facebook’s Default Setting
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From Commodity to Customer
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Can We Prove We’re More Generous Online?
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Feeling Nostalgic
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The Value of Facebook “Likes”
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Talking Peace on Facebook
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The Filter Bubble
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Greenpeace Rocks Facebook

Facebook’s Default Setting

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 3.23.55 PMFacebook’s big announcement this week that they are changing the default settings for new users (from public to friends) and existing users (a reminder to check one’s privacy settings) was yet another red herring in the ongoing public posturing by Facebook of appearing to care about users’ privacy.  Facebook is what it has always been: a company much more interested in their bottom line than our privacy.

Every organization has cultural norms built into its DNA. I call these default settings, and they are as stubborn and inflexible as the Facebook newsfeed setting that keeps going back to showing me the most popular posts rather than the most recent ones that I want to see. Default settings are the invisible scaffolding supporting key decisions. Facebook’s primary default setting is to do everything they can to profit from the information that users are creating and sharing. Every decision they make about privacy has to be filtered through that lens.

Facebook has never believed in the importance of our privacy, but they are terrified of people sharing their content less – or worse, somewhere else. Their real default settings is stuck on, “self-interested profit-seeking,” according to PJ Rey.

The company has always pushed the outside boundaries of privacy in search of a sustainable (meaning Wall Street worthy) business model. We, the users have always been commodities.

Here is the choice we have to make: we will continue to be manipulated in order to supersize Facebook’s profits or we can choose to gather somewhere else.

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From Commodity to Customer

I have been struggling with Facebook for a while now. Once it became clear that Facebook was going public, then we, the actual public, not the Wall Street public Facebook was about to share a large cash-strewn bed with, became commodities rather of customers. When your company doesn’t produce anything but the data generated by your users to sell to other companies, the press to capture those data and the eyeballs of your users becomes paramount. And after the Healthcare.gov-like Facebook IPO, the cacophony of strategies to monetize us became louder and louder. With ads stuffed into our newsfeeds and a lack of transparency about what we’re seeing and why is beginning to make the Facebook pot boil.

I saw a post on Facebook this morning that included this graphic (thanks to Marjorie Fine for the link):

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 12.52.38 PM

There are two questions here: Can we go back to being customers who have a say in how this place is run? Or are we forever consigned to commodity status?

Facebook execs are facing several key calculations. First, the growth of the site has slowed down and the dreaded defection of teens has picked up speed. Therefore, with a maturing base, does Facebook double down with their prisoner mentality and milk the platform for everything they can get while assuming the rest of us have no place to go, aka AOL circa 2000? Or do they begin to remake their relationships with us as customers and not just data points and start a conversation about what we all want the future of Facebook to look and feel like. Zuckerberg and his team have been the smartest guys in the room for the last ten years, that is a very difficult dynamic to change, from leader to follower, but it is the only way to assure that we, the users, customers, prisoners of Facebook, have a voice in its future.

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Can We Prove We’re More Generous Online?

Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 2.15.11 PMI’m full steam ahead on my new book tentatively titled, Our Biggest Small Towns. The idea is that most of us are living simultaneously in online and on land communities. Living this way is turning out to look and feel like our traditional small towns – only at a much greater scale because of the ever-expanding digital environment. Our Biggest Small Towns are spaces where problem solving is accelerated, generosity and kindness are expanding, and we are creating new ways to live together, environments where individuals matter and are capable of shaping their own careers and neighborhoods. These towns come with their own sets of problems, of course. We are exposed to a greater number of personal stories and more information than ever before. Life is moving faster and mistakes can be indelible.

I am beginning by focusing on our expanded generosity and kindness, because I like that part the best!  Every day I watch as people are kind to one another online. Hang in there! Been there, it gets better! Where’s the link so I can give a donation to your cause? We see it over and over again – it’s all right there in front of us, like the millions of people who changed their Facebook profile pic to support gay marriage a few weeks ago. Facebook estimates that about 2.7 million people changed their profiles to the red and white stripes to support gay marriage.

Causes reports that over 170 million people have taken action in over 500,000 unique campaigns in 142 countries since its inception. And Network for Good reports that in 2011 $138 million in donations to more than 40,000 charities through the Network for Good platform in 2011. And yet….

We have always been amazingly generous people, particularly when it comes to donations (according to Giving USA, total giving in 2011 was $298.42 billion.) and giving through social media is still a fraction of what it is on land. And maybe those 2,7 million people supported gay marriage before the Facebook profile pic changes and after and it made no difference to changing anyone’s mind. (Note: I am aware that I am equating support of gay marriage with kindness and generosity – that’s my opinion, you can write what you want on your blog!)

But, I just don’t buy that spending a good chunk of time online, watching your friends give, seeing devastating stories and videos, and uplifting ones, too, and having a way to volunteer or donate right away, when we know that generosity and kindness is contagious in social networks, isn’t making us more generous and kinder.

But, how do I prove it? Open to suggestions!

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Feeling Nostalgic

The combination of summertime and the Facebook IPO imbroglio has left me feeling nostalgic. I miss 2006, Facebook had just opened its door to non-college students, Flckr was going strong, MySpace was the busiest online social network with over 140 million users, MeetUp was growing, we were creating our own online library through bookmarking tools like Delicious. (Here is a very fun post from Mashable of the hot social media trends of 2006.) Twitter and YouTube were just being launched. Personally, I had just published my first book, Momentum, outlining how these new tools were going to change the way we interacted with one another. It was a very exciting time, but more than that, it was just plain old fun learning which buttons to push, how to upload pieces of our lives to share with other people, remembering what it felt like as a kid to discover something new and share it with your friends.

Of course, the issue of how these companies were going to sustain themselves was hanging in the air, but it wasn’t the primary issue, first and foremost was figuring out, together, what was possible, what would enhance our lives together, and for people like me, create a more just world.

It quickly became clear that people were not going to pay for content, buy subscriptions or pay membership fees to use social media channels. We were willing to allow them to sell our personal information – our friendships, clicks, searches, purchases – to online advertisers. There have been occasional push backs (think Beacon) when Facebook, in particular, has crossed the line of using our information to sell us stuff to using our information to sell our friends stuff. Google figured it out first, how to make gobs of money selling online ads customized to our current (and past) searches.

The Facebook IPO was inevitable. I understand the natural desire of the folks who created the largest online social network to be rewarded handsomely for their efforts; however, the rhythms, reasons, pressures of a public company are the polar opposite of those for the fun, refreshing, game changing rhythms of 2006. I know it wasn’t sustainable….but I’m still nostalgic for it. I bristle when I hear Wall Street talking heads discuss the primary purpose of Facebook is now to “monetize 900 million people.”

Being monetized sounds like a painful medical procedure. And, from experience we know what it means, Facebook is going to continue to move the line of our private sphere outward to sell our habits, interests and social connections to advertisers.

In Wired Magazine Steven Johnson muses possible stumbling blocks to Facebook. I think he misses the key one; the key risk for Facebook is the next Zuckerburg. MySpace currently has around 30 million users, bested by the exodus of cool, white middle class kids to Facebook. There is a kid in high school now who will get to college and to do Facebook what it did to MySpace. The promise of the new network will be its simplicity (Facebook is ridiculously complicated to use, particularly pages, isn’t it?) it’s openness, it’s appreciation for us as people rather than commodities (at least at first.)

In the meantime, I’m going to take a glass of ice tea to my back porch and think about the summer of 2006 when all of the channels were free and open and easy to use – and fun.

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The Value of Facebook “Likes”

There is a fascinating current conversation in the blogosphere about the value to a company or nonprofit of people who like Facebook pages. If it cost $5 in time and advertising, say, to get each new Like, and then those people buy a product worth $15, is the value of that person $10? You can slot in donations for product worth and get the same idea.

I became intrigued with this notion yesterday and started to do a blog crawl to get a sense of what folks are thinking about in this regard. I started with this post, Proof That Facebook Fans are Worth More to Brands. What I found intriguing was the link to Augie Ray’s post that outlines how the cause and effect for Likes is a chicken and egg problem. He writes, “Cause and effect:  Which came first, the chicken or the egg?   Do Facebook fans spend more, or do people who spend more become fans?”

Seems logical to me that you wouldn’t Like a company or brand unless you already had a positive experience with them (unless your brother is the company founder and says you have to Like his page or you can’t come to Sunday dinner.)

I then took a peek at what the always-smart Frank Barry had to say about Facebook Likes and nonprofits. Frank’s post has a ton of good information including these gems:

  1. A Facebook fan’s value is not the same as the cost of that fan’s acquisition.
  2. A Facebook fan’s value is relative to his or her purchasing habits (and/or influence on others’ purchasing habits).
  3. Each Facebook fan’s value is unique.
  4. A Facebook fan’s value is likely to be elastic.
  5. A Facebook fan’s value varies from brand to brand.

Frank linked to Olivier Blanchard’s outstanding post on the value of Facebook Likes. And there I saw something that really struck home for me. Olivier writes that there is an Indirect Value for Likes:

Indirect value: If a fan seems to be influencing other people in his or her network to become transacting customers (or increase their buy rate or yield), then you can factor that value in as well for those specific time-frames. Because measurement tools are not yet sophisticated enough to a) properly measure influence and b) accurately tie it to specific transactions, I wouldn’t agonize over this point a whole lot. As long as you understand the value of word-of-mouth, positive recommendations and the relative influence that community members exert on each other, you will hold some valuable insights into your business ecosystem. Don’t lose sleep trying to calculate them just yet. Too soon.

There was something missing to the posts I had read so far, really the heart of the matter for me. It’s not the value of an individual on a social network that’s important, it’s the value of the network.

The notion of creating a direct equation of how much it cost to get one person to Like a Facebook page and how much that person bought or gave as a result might satisfy the bean counters, but misses the larger point of why social media are so much more powerful than broadcast media. If you’re just looking for one, or ten, or one hundred thousand stand alone customers or donors, then there is no extra value in using social media. You could have just sent out a direct mail piece for that. The value in using social media is that every person, every Like, comes with their own network that can be activated in an instant, and at no additional cost, for the organization. And that value, the value of having an army of your  most ardent fans, affects far more than the development department.

Social media is more than a department or a function, it s a way of engaging with the world, it includes communications, advocacy, sales, fundraising. In fact, it’s hard to think of a function other than internal bookkeeping that isn’t affected by social media. The job of any organization is to widen and deepen the network of supporters, whether they are customers, donors or volunteers. The most efficient and effective way to do that right now is through online social networks. Online we can see the network, have conversations with participants in the network. These are the people who are going to tell their friends and family about the great work you do, share a video and help make it go viral, call you on it when you make a mistake, will you to do better in the future.

And what’s the value of that kind of network? Well, what’s the value of your entire enterprise?

 

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Talking Peace on Facebook

On my recent visit to Israel I was a bit disappointed to find so few examples of groups using social media to try to break apart the echo chambers and have conversations, safe, facilitated ones, across the Israeli/Palestinian divide.

I was, therefore, delighted to see an effort called YaLa, a self-described young leaders movement on the net, on Facebook. This effort is also supported by the current President of Israel, Shimon Peres, and Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the State of Palestine.

Moad Arquob, a young Palestinian, said in an article in the NY Times about the site, “I joined immediately because right now, without a peace process and with Israelis and Palestinians physically separated, it is really important for us to be interacting without barriers.”

The discussions on the site are intended to focus on two areas:  on day to day “My City, My Life” and the other visionary ” I Have a Dream”.

Here is a snapshot of a discussion about whether musicians who visit Israel should be boycotted:

From what I saw, the conversations are very civil and interesting. I don’t know what kind of moderation if happening behind the scenes. My real question is whether the conversations are happening just between Americans and Israelis or whether it feels that way to me because I can only read the English posts. But certainly a site and conversation worth watching!

 

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The Filter Bubble

Do you remember a time when you suddenly viewed the world differently? When something changed forever, and not necessarily in a good way.  I remember a moment like that a long time away when I realized that the people I thought were the political good guys were feeding at the same trough of corporate campaign money as the people I thought were the bad guys. I was working at the Democratic National Committee when I figured that out and I vividly remember walking across Capital HIll that night feeling deflated and defeated. It was the moment I realized the sad reality that the world is at it is not how I want it to be.

The new and important book, The Filter Bubble, by Eli Pariser, the former Executive Director and now board chair of Moveon.org, was just as eye-opening for me. It’s a great book, but the idea of filter bubbles is crushing for those of us who believe that an open web is a vital part of a democratic society. The filter bubble is the personalization of the web for users done by companies like Facebook and Google to sell us more stuff. They use enormous amounts of our own data to bring us searches and news feeds they think we want with ads specifically geared towards those interests. Here’s how Eli describes it in his book:

More and more, your computer monitor is a kind of one-way mirror, reflecting your own interest while algorithmic observers watch what you click.”

I knew that the moniker “free” used to describe these online platforms was never really true. But I assumed that our deal with these devils was that they were using our information to pop up ads on our pages, a trade off I’m willing to make because I can just choose to ignore the ads. What I didn’t know, what floored me, was that they are only bringing us information in our searches and news feeds they think we want. It is not an open, unfiltered search for “environmental justice” it is a search based on my past searches and interests. Again, in Eli’s words, this means, “You can get stuck in a static, ever-narrowing version of yourself-an endless you-loop.”

This is depressing news for advocates and their causes, which need to broaden their networks to new networks to be successful. Much of the network building that happens online is not even intentional, it’s the online serendipity that is similar to what happens when you meet someone online at the supermarket or sit next to them on an airplane. But the filter bubble reduces the opportunities for online serendpipity, we just keep bumping into the people, organizations, ideas that we already know.

Again, from Eli: “…our best moments are often our most unpredictable ones. An entirely predictable life isn’t worth living. But algorithmic induction can lead to a kind of information determinism, in which our past clickstreams entirely decide our future.” 135

Worse, yet, it runs counter to the notion, propigated by techtopians like me, that the internet could and should be a democratizing tool leveling access to information for people who don’t have access to good schools, good jobs, good libraries, etc.  Filter bubble is a more polite way of saying we are all in our own ghetto’s online now.

The key for the public in trying to break out of the bubbles is changing the default settings and the user agreements. Of course, those agreements that are 37 pages long filled with legalese that are hard to view and understand for lay people are not in our favor. Eli says that Facebook’s agreement even has a clause in it saying you agree to these current rules – and any future one’s we create! The current default settings for the platforms is that we’re in the bubble unless we opt out – and it ought to be the opposite.

This will be a long struggle. I actually hope some company will take it as an opportunity to differentiate themselves by doing a better job of protecting our data and keeping the web open – but they probably won’t make as much money as the other guys. Maybe Mozilla could take up this cause? I hope so because I can’t afford to keep drowning my sorrows in chocolate!

 

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Greenpeace Rocks Facebook

Greenpeace International launched a rockin’ advocacy campaign on Facebook – about Facebook! Here’s a screenshot of it:

Of course, there have been lots of protests about Facebook over the years, largely over the issue of privacy (remember Beacon?) Greenpeace is advocating for Facebook to transition from coal and nuclear-based energy sources to cleaner ones. That’s fine, no big shakes there. They are doing so by training to raise the largest number of commenters in a day – over 50,000. They ended up with over 80,000 comments. Here is more from KQED about Greenpeace’s campaign to “Unfriend Coal.”

What makes the campaign rock isn’t that it is Greenpeace, or that it is on Facebook, it is tying the advocacy effort to the world record for comments created a sense of fun, urgency and visibility they never would have had before. These elements are similar to what Beth and I reported as key characteristics that made America’s Giving Challenge sponsored by the Case Foundation so successful. Now, of course, is how to continue to press the issue. I wonder what Greenpeace has up it’s sleeve next to take this on land.

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