Adam Smith alluded to the "invisible hand" of the free market in his reference book The Wealth of Nations and with that Is one of the very first political economists. Smith's observation was so precise that most of us assume that markets are run by individuals who pursue their own enlightened interests. Much of this has led the evolution of CRM as a tool for tracking clients.
If you pay attention today, you will notice the not so invisible hand that works in many areas. For example, if you followed the consequences of the Florida shootings, you know that a group of kids started a national movement of activists to do something about gun safety. The #MeToo movement – women who come together to change the workplace by eliminating sexual harassment – is another example. So is the Black Lives Matter movement.
What they have in common is the initiative of committed individuals to bring about change in what is essentially "markets" in the broadest conception of that term. Much closer to home, even in the world of technology, we are witnessing the hustle and bustle of users' dissatisfaction with social media, and it is unclear where it will go. Its impact on CRM could be important because the social has become one of the key channels connecting suppliers and customers.
A recent article in Wired "Facebook does not know how many people followed the Russians on Instagram" by Issie Lapowsky,
documents Facebook's foot dragging on the production of information for the various investigations surrounding the 2016 US election.
Jonathan Albright, of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, reviewed the details and produced uncomfortable information for Facebook. It was cited in Wired The New York Times and elsewhere.
Albright's work has uncovered many things regarding Facebook's approach to the investigation that you might consider passive-aggressive. For example, when asked why he had not produced information on the number of people who saw Instagram information created by troll accounts run by Russians, a spokesman for Facebook said: "We have not been asked to provide this information. (Facebook has Instagram.)
There is no need to repeat the article here; it's worth reading, but that's your call. It documents how Facebook has helped investigators up to now, but only if they ask the right questions. The last paragraph summarizes this point:
"Facebook has shown a constant reluctance to detail how these trolls have infiltrated its platform and to whom this propaganda has come.It has repeatedly had to correct previous statements about the scope of these advertisements and accounts. Working with researchers Outside as Albright, the company might be able to paint a more complete picture, but Facebook would not open its data to researchers. "
It is not necessary to re-examine whenever Facebook has denied its participation or its disputed conclusions that more than 150 million people have seen Russian content, or that all US secret services have agreed that the Russians had beloved and well hacked the elections. It's very interesting from another journalistic point of view but not that one.
When doubt settles
The totality of Facebook's involuntary involvement in hacking combined with its efforts to downplay its importance raises a bigger problem for Facebook and, by extension, for all social media: What is the usefulness of Facebook and social media in general given the Russian attacks?
A glib response could be that they should not be terribly helpful because they are free, and users get any utility that they want to use. This argument misses the point. If the utility of Facebook was low or especially if it was questionable, its business model would be in serious trouble.
The main product of social media has always been the user. It is valuable to all of us when we use it to gather information about our personal graphics, and we knowingly pay fees in kind by letting social sites collect data about us, which they can then sell to advertisers. This is a classic network effect – the larger the audience, the more valuable the output of its data.
But what happens if the veracity of the information on social media is questioned? The value of social media is directly proportional to their veracity. If one can doubt this truthfulness, it would be prudent to look for alternatives. Individuals and businesses investing heavily in the use of social media information may begin to doubt whether their investments are delivering value.
Facebook's approach to the hacking scandal has up to now been to deny it and ignore it, admitting that something when there is no reason to do so is a problem. another choice. This presents another problem associated with stonewalling – dispelling trust. As unpleasant as the facts are, the more a party tries to ignore or hide them, the lower the market confidence in this entity.
The truth value of what people are posting on networks and what they believe about the truthfulness of others' messages is circulating the world of social media. This truth is what makes some people spend hours a day surfing the sites. Once trust begins to erode, even a little, the business model can begin to fall apart.
The one who advises Facebook on his strategy should reconsider. It's human nature not to like criticism and serious accusations. However, hindering the free flow of information will not solve the problem. Free markets depend on transparency, and Facebook is a free market of ideas. If it stops being that, or even if people stop believing it, there is no reason for them to continue using it.
Denis Pombriant is a well-known researcher, strategist, writer and lecturer in the CRM industry. His new book, You Can not Buy Customer Loyalty, but You Can Earn It is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer is also available here.