Why other industries need to call out Facebook’s advertising policy

Let’s for a minute imagine these as Corporate Policies:

Car Manufacturer: We’ll take a car off the road if an unsafe model gets out of the factory and is sold, but we can’t promise all our cars are safe until you start driving them. If you see an unsafe car out there, please let us know. 

Fast Food Outlet: If our pizza has salmonella or listeria, you can return it, but we can’t promise all our food is safe to eat. If you get sick or know someone who did, please let us know and we’ll take the pizza back. 

Packaged Goods Manufacturer: If our shampoo has chemicals that are unsafe and burn your head, we’ll change the formula, but we’re not sure until we sell it if it’s OK. If you see anyone with a burned head, ask them what shampoo they used, and if it’s our brand, we’ll happily take it off the shelf.

This is essentially what Facebook Inc. have just announced as their Global Policy for Advertising. All I’ve done is paraphrase their policy, and changed the product and industry. Here it is below for your reference:

Joel Kaplan – Global Policy VP

“We try to catch content that shouldn’t be on Facebook before it’s even posted, but because this is not always possible, we also take action when people report ads that violate our policy”

Facebook claim it isn’t possible for 2 simple reasons:

  1. Because it isn’t profitable for them to check every advertisement before it goes out.
  2. Because they haven’t been regulated in the same way other media organisations are.

While I understand 2 billion peoples comments can’t be moderated before they’re published, maybe paid advertising on Facebook should be. Facebook at least ought to be held to account financially when their ‘platform’ creates problems for society. Their current MO when anything outside their policy happens is ‘oops, sorry about that’ . They get away with it because society and regulators let them. A good starting point to fix this is to start calling out Facebook for what it actually is – a media company, not a technology business. There is a certain responsibility that goes with being a media company and its resultant influence, yet Facebook continues to flout the responsibility that is incumbent upon such power.  To call it a technology company is ridiculous. All companies employ technology – Boeing and Ford have a far greater breadth and use of technology than Facebook, but at least they admit they sell airplanes and cars. Facebook sells advertisements to their audience, not technology – seems like a media company to me.

It’s also worth noting that the update from Facebook policy resulting from controversy surrounding fake ads and alleged Russian influence on the US election didn’t address the problems of false information, only ‘transparency’ of what was published, promoted and who did it. The extreme targeting possible on Facebook is itself one of the problems. Those likely to spot a misleading advertisement are unlikely to see it. In this sense the promise of transparency is a moot point. A further quote from the statement in relation to advertising via Russian accounts below is quite telling:

” All of these ads violated our policies because they came from inauthentic accounts” 

Not because the information was misleading? And further on…

“Our ad policies already prohibit shocking content, direct threats and the promotion of the sale or use of weapons.”

Apparently advertising false information is OK? No mention of it anywhere… You can read it for yourself here. 

While Facebook promises to create a more open and connected society, it is in reality creating a more silo-ed and disconnected society. When governments first gave out spectrum at the birth of the TV era, it came with the responsibility of providing unbiased news and balanced data on issues affecting society. We didn’t let the idea of innovation or new technology interfere with creating the kind of society we all want to live in.

I think social media is one of the most amazing things to evolve in my lifetime. The power provided through connection and sharing thought has helped me re-invent my career, find like-minds and gain knowledge that just wasn’t available in the mainstream media era. For that I’m grateful.

But it is time that we took its power more seriously. It’s time to add seat belts and brakes to the data vehicles driving our lives and admit that no technology out of control or without failsafes ever benefits society.

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If you liked this post – you’ll dig my new book – The Lessons School Forgot – a manifesto to survive the tech revolution. 

Forbes ironically forgets Economics 101

A few times I’ve had friends link me to interesting articles from Forbes. The topic looks good, I’m excited, and click in and I get this:

Forbes ad blocker request

 

What Forbes are really saying is this: “Sorry Steve, even though you have an ad blocker, and you’ve taken definitive action to not see advertising, we want you to turn off your ad blocker, so we can trick our advertisers that your eyeballs are worth paying for.”

And here is what happened. I clicked out and read something else. I’ll never read a Forbes article online again. I’m not sure if it’s a shame or a sham? Why would any media organisation try and trick it’s advertisers into believing they are getting more value than they really are. If I did do what Forbes suggested, then I’d be getting the advertisements, but ignoring them. Certainly a worse outcome for the advertiser, they’d be paying for attention they’re not getting. It seems most people agree.

Forbes ad block comments

What Forbes and anyone else putting up barriers seem to forget is the first lesson in economics – demand and supply. And content is supply rich for readers. If you lock us out, we’ll get it elsewhere. If anyone in the content game wants their audience to jump over walls they better ensure what they’re offering is not on this side of the barrier as well.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Twitter vs Facebook vs Linkedin – is the medium still the message?

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The medium is the message, first coined by Marshall McLuhan has been a staple belief in the world of advertising and communications for a very long period. During the heady days of Mass Media, being seen on TV itself was beacon of success. Products on the shelf would proudly beam ‘As seen on TV’ on their packaging. For only those who sold a lot of their product could afford it, or was it that if you were on it, you’d sell a lot of product? Regardless, the channel a brand appeared in said a lot about its place in the commercial world.

While, it feels like the now infinite number of media channels might make this maxim less true, I’m certain it still applies to a large extent. Ofttimes the context shapes the content.

As far as this blog goes there are some clear patterns. If you’re a regular reader you’ll notice that I have only 3 social sharing buttons at the bottom of a post. One for Twitter, one for Facebook and one for Linkedin. I ditched Google+ because it was just too embarrassing have a share button with no shares. Here’s what I noticed with the sharing of my posts:

Twitter – always gets more shares if the post is tech, startup heavy, recent news commentary or political in nature.

LinkedIn – always gets more shares if it’s about escaping a corporate position, about becoming an entrepreneur, industry disruption, human motivation, selling and horrible bosses.

Facebook – always gets more shares if it’s about personal finance, goal setting, hope, criticism and social issues. Yet, I’m connected to the same people in all these channels.

My takeout of all this? For startups or any business using social forums trying to reach an audience, it is far less about the demographic and for more about the ideology and topic of the particular post. The interest graph is far stronger than the social graph. Now the only question on my mind is what category does this post fall into?

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

The global content playbook & how the internet actually works

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I’m a big fan of the John Oliver show Last Week Tonight. Which, in an unconnected web world I wouldn’t even know about as it has never been shown in Australia. But through the wonder of sharing great content online I became a big fan. The show airs in the USA on Sunday nights, and in their wisdom, HBO would publish much of the shows content on Youtube a day later. I’d eagerly await to watch it here on Monday night in Australia through the Last Week Tonight Youtube channel. At last, a media company that gets it. A media company that understands the value of building connection and fan bases globally in real time. They even made it available to non subscribers – wow.

That was until this week. For some reason, most likely the HBO launch in Australia or some other licensing arrangement in Australia with Stan, Presto or Netflix, I now get the classic picture above: Sorry, This content is not available in your region.

Wrong.

This content is available in my region, they simply made a decision to give up their direct relationship with me, and forced me to get it elsewhere. Now they won’t share any of the potential advertising revenue or other prizes which come from direct customer relationships. Weirdly, much of it is ‘still’ available on youtube channels where others have uploaded it. The back door has been opened. And it’s licensing deal structures born of the late 1970’s cable TV era that create this back door leakage.

More than 20 years into this thing, here’s a simple lesson every media company should already know: Once it is released anywhere digitally, it is released everywhere digitally. The desires of the content owners to limit distribution are irrelevant. Given this is the new truth, a better strategy might be to just embrace it.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now. 

False Positives

The promise of online advertising was the ability to find an audience based on interests more that just demographic profile. An audience based on interests. This advertisement below appeared in my twitter stream which not only gave me a little chuckle, but reminded me that the web is full of false positives.

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As a reminder a false positive is a a test result which wrongly indicates that a particular condition or attribute is present.  No I am not a One Direction fan. I have never mentioned them in a tweet. But I do very often tweet about music and music videos and use such hashtags. Clearly I’ve been incorrectly identified in one of the parameters for the advertising as being a potential teenie bopper.

It reminds us to think through what the web tells as and to use our own internal analytics to tester, our brain, to see if what it is telling us is valid.

A key word is used in social media might actually mean the person doesn’t like it and the keywords were among other derogatory sentiments. The number of followers and readers we have in a social forum doesn’t necessarily mean we have that many followers of readers. It just means people clicked a button once upon a time. I have over 5000 twitter followers, but I’m certain only a small percentage of that ever see my tweets. My weekly twitter report tells me this as do the number of clicks the links I post in my tweets get (which I track). Not to mention that anyones tweets can now be muted with no one knowing.

Numbers do not necessarily equal caring. It’s also true that media organisations through the ages have used these grey areas to create massive profitability. And even though the technology is getting better at giving us a more accurate measure, there is a still a long way to go. It’s worth remembering that the actions and interactions are what matters, not the numbers.

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Just start working

If you want to work with someone, or for someone, people falsely believe that they have to ask for permission.  That they need approval to start  working with those who inspire them. The opposite is true and if we really want to work for someone, then all we need to do is start working for them. Start being a resource and creating value to what they do. It’s probably the best way to end up doing business with someone. To prove your capability, to demonstrate effort and to do it without asking for anything in return in the first instance. To be the resource.

I recently happened upon a great example of it. Aspiring advertising graduates went right ahead and did that for Tesla Motors. Here’s an advertisement they created below.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKbRAazkiWc]

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The interesting thing is that it got a all the way to Elon Musk.

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Just think about it, they’d never be able to get a meeting with him, to pitch an idea for an advertisement (mind you Tesla does not do any traditional advertising and does’t really need it – which is what happens when you make great products). But the lesson here is a vintage case of modern day bootstrapping. If we have resources at our disposal for connection and creativity, there’s nothing stopping us from using them. It’s those who create first without asking for anything who win respect and future opportunity.

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Worlds colliding

In 2013 I think we can all agree that there is no digital. There is only life. We all now move seamlessly between our digital and analogue selves. The transition is unnoticeable and omnipresent. It’s a surprise that most marketers and even some tech startups fail to realize this.

Key hint: If you have an on-line strategy something is wrong. The strategy is the strategy.

The increasing number of layers and channels is just another example of our world increasing in complexity and contextual differentiators. Something that will only continue on its current trajectory. And it is not just about retailers getting their digi-on. It’s also about those who live on line understanding how they can enter the physically world – it’s still where we humans live!

The advertisement below inspired this post. A  great example of a few hallmarks in advertising:

  • Humour when relevant
  • Customer centric strategy
  • Real world integration

Sadly most Australian retailers are still yet to realise we operate in a new world.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I03UmJbK0lA]

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