Facebook and Snap are the two leaders in what was originally referred to as social media when they launched — but they have quickly morphed to become platforms. The impending question is, exactly what kind of platform do they think they truly are?
As media platforms, they are responsible for the content being distributed through their pipes, while if they’re considered technology platforms, they’re not so directly involved. Still, as a technology platform, they have a responsibility to maintain the safety and integrity of the data they track or create (which they do as a media platform too, but at least this way nobody is holding them to the content responsibility). Either way, they’re in stormy waters.
Snap’s biggest challenge is being dependent on a traditionally fickle set of value creators: celebrities, who are not reacting lightly to things that Snap has been doing. The entire Kardashian/Jenner family can cut them deeply, and Rihanna came out swinging recently when an ad campaign of truly poor taste was run through Snap. That was followed this week by Chrissy Teigen speaking out negatively about the platform.
As a result of these celebrity anti-endorsements, the stock value has been plummeting and many are questioning whether this is a platform they want to keep using. Once those questions arise, the brand has an uphill battle to convince the public otherwise.
But at least Snap has had to deal with this situation before and is probably accustomed to tackling this specific marketing challenge.
Facebook has also had to deal with questions about user privacy and data management in the past, but the scale of the outcry in this specific situation is unlike any previously, and it comes in the midst of other debates about privacy, a government that does not favor technology and the impending implementation of GDPR across the EU, with all its ramifications on consumer data privacy.
Do I think this is a death sentence for a company like Facebook? No. Do I think this is going to create challenges that will take months to overcome? Yes.
Consumers have become more educated about how how companies leverage their data in the digital age. They understand the old use cases of retargeting, when the shoes you just looked up follow you around the Internet. Consumers also understand this data is worth millions of dollars to the companies that use it. I’ve seen companies try to enable marketplaces and other tools that would allow consumers to monetize their data, but that requires time and effort on the part of the consumer for an ROI in the tens of dollars when you add it up. It’s not enough to make an impact, and therefore it’s not worth their time.
That being said, I think consumers do understand they wield some power here. That power comes in terms of voting and legislation. The government is more than willing to get involved, which could be a problem for these so-called platforms.
Snap’s issue is one of marketing and the perception of value, or lack thereof. Facebook’s is a challenge around what it wants to be when it grows up and what regulations it wants to live by. Facebook doesn’t want to be considered a media platform, so it doesn’t want to take responsibility for the content people use on its platform -- but if it wants to be a technology platform, then it needs to understand what it can and cannot do with the data.
How Facebook comes to term with its own success and defines itself now, going forward, will define how the population looks at it and uses it going forward.