As the strategy guru at Red Root Marketing, social media is something I think about and work with every day…and night…and weekends. Social media marketing is a great way for companies and consumers to connect - when there is a relevant and meaningful affinity. Personally, I love seeing my favorite local accessory designer share a Facebook post about her new scarf creations or find out from a spectacular photo of froth on Instagram that a new coffee shop is opening up around the corner. Social media is also a great place to find out that my running group is putting together a new training class or my daughter has worn something entirely inappropriate to a college football game. I enjoy keeping up with local events and the people I care about.
You may not know, though, that my consumer marketing background is rooted in newspapers, both the crinkly paper version and the scrolling digital kind. With the growth of social media, my marketing teams scrambled to connect the paper’s content to every social media platform available to extend our audience and reach. The result was a commoditization of our valuable content, devaluing of the audience, a crash in advertising revenue and a reduction in news gathering resources.
After the 2016 election, we were told that there was a huge divide in America where many of us on the coasts didn’t understand the perspectives of our fellow citizens in the heartland. I was told that I needed to expand my ‘news feed’ to include the news sources that people with other points of view were consuming. To do this, many of my friends purposefully added other sources of information that held beliefs far different from their own.
While this search for a balanced news feed included many points of view, it was not necessarily a reflection of the truth or healthy perspectives. My friends seeking a broader understanding had to suffer through many hateful perspectives. What we have since learned is that the news feed was being hijacked by people, groups and governments that meant us ill. While understanding other people’s lot in life is an important pursuit, doing so on social media is not the place for it.
Facebook, in particular, has been misused by those dealing in ‘fake news,’ by those claiming to run the company with oversight and democratic values and by those of us who digested our news and information solely from its pages. The result is an undervalued 4th estate, a distrustful community and heart-weary readers.
The recent tagging of news sources with an information icon on Facebook doesn’t solve this challenge. Most people never clicked on the incendiary headlines to begin with; the damage is already done by just scrolling past blatant lies and truth twists. Rather than try to outsmart the haters and liars, since there is no viable way to confirm the validity of information posted to social media, we need to bring Facebook back to its original state by taking all news sources off the platform. Instead, go directly to trusted news apps – The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are a good start. Only friend and follow people and companies you care about.
Yes, crazy cousin with questionably antiquated social views, I’m not accepting your friend request. I will revert Facebook back to its correct purpose – casual mind candy to occasionally enjoy for uplifting connections, but not take seriously.
Strategy Guru, Red Root Marketing