Caveat Emptor (Let the Buyer Beware)
By Paul Weber, EAG Advertising & Marketing CEO
Facebook is under fire. Just yesterday a client expressed concerns that our marketing plans for his consumer product included Facebook social programming and advertising. This was a first, and a timely reminder that we should pause and consider the complications that Facebook advertising presents.
At least for the time being we have drawn our own conclusion – let the buyer beware, and we encourage everyone to think broadly about how social media platforms fit into your marketing mindset. Here are some of the questions raised and thoughts triggered by this hot topic.
Remember that the Medium is the Message
Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase, “The medium is the message.” Meaning that the form of the medium embeds itself in any message. Decades old, this adage holds true more so than ever. In this era of storytelling and content messaging, platform selection means everything. Collectively, we’ve migrated away a bit too much from considering the appropriateness of the media. The medium (platform) matters.
If the medium is the message, then should we hold the media accountable for what happens on its airwaves, within its pages, on its feed? Is Facebook responsible for keeping certain content on or off its pages? Is this a first amendment issue or a paid media choice? If you believe the former, then stay off of Facebook until you feel confident the medium reflects your brand. You may be waiting awhile.
Prepare for Weaponized Media
Media has been weaponized. Social media has been weaponized more than most. But who’s fault is it – the content channel or the content developer? Do you hold Facebook accountable for what is said on the InfoWars page, which claims, “Circumventing the dying dinosaur media systems of information suppression, Infowars and the Alex Jones Channel are a beacon of truth in a maelstrom of lies and deception.”? Taking it to the extreme, do you hold the internet accountable for inappropriate or inaccurate content delivered to your desktop or to your children?
Can you hold an institution accountable for media-gone-bad or can you only hold an individual accountable? As Mark Zuckerberg likely takes the hot seat in Washington, D.C., is he the person to defend Facebook and social media? Or are the guilty parties users because of how we consume and use the content that appears on Facebook and other platforms?
Too Lucrative to Ignore? Too Big to Fail?
Are we forced to use Facebook as a content and advertising medium simply because it is too big to ignore? For many champions of their brands, Facebook’s performance in delivering impressions, engagement, and eventually, sales simply can’t be ignored. At the end of the day and in spite of how many arrows we aim at Zuckerberg and Facebook, do we care because when more people “Like” our company?
The last time “too big to fail” was part of our social discussion was during the economic failure of 2009. At that time, big banks were the target of our blame. Now we look toward social media platforms to protect us from those with a self-serving agenda that puts us in harm’s way. Did we learn anything about “too big to fail” that is relevant as we look for one to blame today?
Let the buyer beware. In today’s media environment, every brand and steward of that brand must beware of the media selected to promote their business.
Compromising user data may have been initiated by an unscrupulous source. Facebook has admitted they are accountable for a portion of protecting user data. But beyond the headlines and congressional testimony, the burden to protect one’s brand still lies with the owners of that brand.
If Facebook is the evil doer, what is the cost to your business to stop advertising with Facebook? If social media as a communications channel is too risky for your business, what is the harm if you stop using it entirely?
Can you continue to use all the social and traditional media channels available to you while still taking the necessary steps to protect your brand? Knowing that “the medium is the message,” will you have the fortitude to make the tough decisions to exclude some popular channels?
At EAG Advertising & Marketing we’ve drawn our own conclusion, at least for now. This is an ever-changing environment, but that’s nothing new to those of us in media and marketing. Make your own decisions and arm yourself with the greatest protection against the evils of new media: knowledge.