Social media is like a little dopamine hit

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Social media is a mechanism for capturing, manipulating and consuming attention unlike any other yet they refuse to acknowledge their power and influence over consumers. Adults in the US spend about 20 hours on the top three social media apps a month. Overall, Americans touch their smartphones 2,600 times a day with the heaviest users double that. Content is looked at for a few seconds, but Facebook doesn’t care as long as they can be your “daily fix” of likes and comments.

Facebook and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, control half the world’s digital advertising. People do not share content solely because it is informative. They share information because they want attention for themselves, and for what the things they share say about them. They want to be heard and seen, and respected. They want posts to be liked, tweets to be retweeted. Some types of information spread more easily this way than others; they pass through social-media networks like viruses — a normally pathological trait which the social-media business is set up to reward.

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Yet for a firm which used to say its mission was to make the world more open and connected, Facebook is strikingly closed and isolated. Its goal is to keep you coming back more and more often to get a fix of likes and shares. Will social media desire to keep us in their clutches backfire?

Over the past year Facebook has sent out armies of sales people to recruit more marketers to use Facebook to reach consumers, but although Facebook recently reported a spike in ad revenue it may be coming to a sudden halt.

Marketers have always been trained to go where consumers are when it comes to advertising. But what happens when the CEO of Facebook refuses to meet with Congressional leaders and a leading Senator says “they are too big to self regulate”?

In a speech on Wednesday, Franken offered up a damning critique of the companies, charging them with having unchecked influence that even they don’t know how to control. “These companies may not be up to the challenge that they’ve created for themselves,” he said.

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The business model of Facebook in particular is predicated on amassing “massive troves of information” about its users, Franken said. That’s given the company untold power.

I’m already hearing from clients who either want out of social media completely or want to use it in a very limited way. Facebook has a habit of doing things wrong and correcting them later, but can they really police themselves? Probably not.

Facebook is nothing more than a media company and like other media companies they need to be regulated and take ownership of things like Russian BOTS influencing our election. How long before someone takes out a fake news ad against one of the top brands? Who will be responsible for the cost of lost market share?

Originally published at on November 10, 2017.

Marketing contrarian with over 15 years of developing leading edge and award winning digital marketing initiatives.

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