Who trusts Facebook? Absolutely no-one…

…At least that’s what you might presume by the hoarde of Facebook users who have posted a fake ‘we own this content, and keep your paws off Zuckerberg’ disclaimer on their Timeline. (I did it too!)

I felt I had to write about this when I received the email from Facebook on Nov 21. This email announced they would be changing the privacy policy or words to this effect and were inviting comments.

I’ve never really been concerned about how my data is being used on these social media sites, although as a PR and a telecoms ‘guru’ I know what could be collected and how it potentially can be used (Saudi Women Tracked by Electronic Tagging).

But then, knowing what I do, it’s frankly impossile to stand up against it and, just as the old experts from anti-virus experts used to say – the only way to protect yourself is to be disconnected. And where’s the fun in that?

I think many people feel the same way. They know their data is being collected. They know advertisers, governments and criminals have access and are probably using it. Many have been pfished, hacked or hit by a hacker in one form or another. I was over the summer.

But it doesn’t stop people from using the Internet. It doesn’t slow the number of people joining Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or ….

I suppose it’s like crossing the road. You can get hit, but as long as you look left and right, you are going to be OK. If you are unlucky enough to be passing at night whilst someone is driving recklessly, well if it’s your time, it’s your time.

But the Facebook reaction is something worse. These may be some of the underlying causes of this situation:

1. The IPO

People are becoming suspicious of the brand, especially now that it has gone public. We know that Facebook had to make money in the past, but I think most of us were happy that some young person had a great idea and was making his money. They were the symbols of the American Dream.

Now however, Corporate American is in charge. The stakes have changed and we are reading not about the bright blue eyed boys and girls from Harvard, but the bankers and analysts perceptions and demands for greater revenues, for more advertising….

No-one likes this kind of talk… especially in the current era of austerity where the kinds of people who are now in charge of Facebook are well, shall we say, not very well liked.

2. A maturing platform

It’s no-longer this fresh faced innovation. It’s not cool anymore. Users are slowly getting bored.

One analyst I met recently had a very good insight.

He said, children don’t like to hang out with their parents… and if your mum, dad, uncle, aunt and gran all have Facebook pages, it won’t be long before the youth market heads to another place to hide.

So if the excitement is gone, users won’t be as willing to share their information as the experience is not the same anymore. The virtual value has been reduced and the user will demand more – more security, more confidentiality – more control.

3. The Geek Factor

Might I sugges that Facebook is becoming ‘Microsoft’… that Zuckerberg is the new Gates? Brilliant, a true genius – but, a little bit different. Not someone you can really relate too. Someone who is just that little bit too smart.

And as any wildlife TV fan will know, it’s always the one who is different from the herd who attracts the wrong kind of attention.

The Kardasians may not add much to the world – but people can relate to them. That’s a brand people can trust in.

4. Unusually reliable

The success of Facebook is that it is so easy to use. Everything works. Always. Even Microsoft makes mistakes – see Windows 8!

It’s too good to be true. It’s unnatural. Or, potentially powered and funded by people who cannot afford for it to fail.

5. The Dilbert Factor (People are Stupid)

How to explain that so many intelligent people (including myself lol!) would post the information without checking it! My brother explains it best: 

“Getting right annoyed by the hoax copyright convention message floating round on here… for those who have posted the HOAX viral message (http://www.thatsnonsense.com/view.php?id=1641) – could you please tell me (without googling and t…

rawling the internet!!!!) – actually don’t bother…what the UCC 1 1-308 1-103 is… other than a Star Trek spaceship… where the Rome Statute fits into the UK law cos I’m struggling here… and what the flip is the Berner Convention… some sort of pyromaniac or woodland retreat party? just read or google before posting pointless drivel PLEASE! nuff said – rant over…”
– Andrew King, My Brother


This is a PR disaster in the making and Facebook teams need to get a handle on it now. It’s going to take time. It’s going to be painful. And embarrasing.

Investors aren’t going to like it and the share price might be hit in the short term.

But, without a commitment to transparency and a purer than Google mission statement to ‘not be evil’ then Facebook probably has about 2-3 years left as a super brand.

This issues shows there is demand for a new type of Facebook – one people can ‘trust’.

That has got to worry Zuckerberg, who has to be relieved that there is noone around as brilliant as Steve Jobs was, as ‘iFacebook’ would certainly do to his company what iphone did to Nokia.

Mark my words 

Facebook may have changed a lot of things.

But the son of Facebook…

The next generation of Facebook …

These applications and services will change everything.



About stephenking2012

In 2012 I volunteered to hold the position of Chair - Standards & Ethics Committee for the Middle East PR Association (@MEPRA_org). I have set up this account to assist in this effort. You may also like to follow my Blog or connect with me on LinkedIn. In any case, please do visit www.mepra.org, and if you are not yet a member, please do sign up!
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