My initial blog post was titled “Out of Balance”. What I thought I knew and what I didn’t know really was what was out of balance. Secret confession, I had no idea how to pronounce Airbnb before this class, I had envisioned a fancy sounding French pronunciation. Chalk that up to at least one thing learned but there were many others. My lasting impression is how swiftly the world moves. Just in the last four months we’ve gone from rogue government twitter accounts to fake news, witnessed Snapchat have it’s IPO, and who could forget about all the Uber and United antics. Even the President has tweeted 485 times in his first 100 days but only met with 16 foreign leaders.
Social Media and Digital Business
Social media and digital business has exploded. Looking at some of the stats they are almost too big to comprehend never mind actually manage.
Social media is consuming and creating more content every day, it’s almost a full-time job just to catch up. Although most sites especially the big players claim NOT to be news organizations the fact is that approximately 62% of US adults are getting their news from social media sites. With all the fake news and alternative facts floating around out there it brings to the light the need for better checks and balances. We’ve all heard the expression with great power comes great responsibility well this is no different for social media sites. If these sites want to maintain control the time to act is now before government regulations bring enforcement that will stifle their business models. The challenges for these platforms will be to ensure they are not used in ways that threaten safety. The recent tragedy concerning the Live Streaming of a murder on Facebook calls into question how individuals are and will be using these platforms in the future. However there is so much good being generated that makes social media a valuable resource to society. The scale and swiftness of the Women’s March on Washington would not have been possible without social media. This is a prime example of the power that Facebook and other social media sites have in organizing and connecting people together under a common goal.
The three main components of our culture, Companies, Society, and Government, all have a role to play in managing the impending change as we integrate social media and new technologies into our lives.
The landscape for companies is changing and in many cases they are experimenting in uncharted waters. There is profound pressure on companies to embrace social media but as we’ve seen time and time again, some companies get it and some don’t (cough Pepsi). Companies need to remember that they are “always on”. Content is no longer completely controlled by the organization, earned media from WOM, on-line and influencers is becoming more important every day and leveraging these opportunities is a competitive advantage. UA is a great example of the backlash that can be felt when policies are not customer centric and everyone has a smart phone to capture your fopaux and post it to social media. The way companies use paid media is also changing, for the first time Digital Ad spend out preformed TV Ad spend in 2016. Much like anything else, with social media and Digital Ads the devil is in the details. This is evident from the different reactions consumers had for the Pepsi and Heineken Ads. Both focusing the Ad campaigns on current social stereotypes and the divide among us and encouraged understanding and finding common ground. While the Pepsi Ad had to be pulled due to consumer response the Heineken Ad is getting acclaim . The morale of the story is be smart and use social media wisely and within the scope of your competency otherwise it may cause more harm than good.
As a community we have been giving a huge opportunity with the advancement of technology. Unfortunately many of the headlines highlight negative aspects like cyber bullying, trolling, and stalking just to name a few. Individuals and society as a whole has the most power to be a catalyst for change. If you don’t like what Uber is doing, great, delete the App. Is the government not acting in societies best interest, great, get out there and vote. People can influence decisions by holding companies and government accountable through these actions. Move from being a slactivist to and activist and take action against companies and people who allow hate and threatening behavior to come across our feeds. Knowing out rights and understanding the privacy laws will help people evaluate where the lines should be drawn.
The responsibility of the government is perhaps the most ambiguous and will be a balancing act. We’ve seen how regulation can stifle innovation and growth in some industries. In an ideal world companies would police themselves but in too many instances companies cross the line when the temptation to exploit consumer privacy and limit competition creates strong opportunities for growth. We’ve seen the government create rulings on things like Net Neutrality but many times regulations cause adverse effects and instead of protecting fair competition regulations limit it more. Regulations can even destroy a concept like it did with the Jitney Bus. Bigger challenges for the government will come in the wake of AI and all the box of fun that brings. Serious consideration needs to be made to reduce the civil unrest that is plaguing this country, much of it driven by the inequalities that are a result of our economy. Making sure citizens are receiving education that will prepare them for a different job market should be top on the governments priority list. Additionally making tough decisions about guaranteed income and how wealth is distributed lies primarily in the hands of the government.
So at the end of all this what I have now are more questions than answers.
- How and to what extent should individuals privacy be protected?
- What are the implications of job loss through AI and technology?
- Can we and/or should we stop the growing income gap?
- Will a shared economy create opportunity?
- To what extent should new ideas be governed so innovation is not stifled.
- Is social media segregating us into a homophily bubble?
My final thought is that it’s complicated. The world is a changing. YouTube is becoming boob tube and Facebook is becoming less social and more news. It can be overwhelming to face this onslaught of constant change but we have a lot of things working in our favor. Trust, for one, although shouldn’t be handed over blindly we have become more trusting of each other, this will enable new opportunities that we can’t even imagine today. Trust will become a precious commodity for businesses because only the ones that earn and retain it will be able to grow. The digital age is at the beginning of its story. We are on the ground level and have the unique opportunity of being the generation that defines the game and writes the rules. How we choose to exercise that power remains to be seen.