“Sheryl Sandberg: The Teens ‘Consented’ to Putting Facebook Spyware on Their Phones.” Another day, another screaming headline exposes negative behavior by Facebook.
Adweek reported on a survey which asked U.S. adults how they would trust 100 of the biggest brands with their personal data in exchange for “more relevant offers, goods and services”. Facebook ranked last. A 2018 Honest Data poll found that U.S. citizens think Facebook is worse for society than McDonalds or Walmart. The only company ranked worse than Facebook was Marlboro. A 2018 CB Insights survey asked which company will have a net negative for society 10 years from now? “The answer was pretty overwhelmingly Facebook.”
Any yet … And yet … Facebook revenue rose to $16.9 billion in the last three months of 2018, up 30%. Monthly active users rose to 2.32 billion, up 9%. Consequently, Facebook’s share price soared more than 13%. What’s happening?
Does trust matter? Clearly, not very much when it comes to Facebook. Why is Facebook still so successful?
There’s a pattern to many of the negative stories about Facebook. Most of them tell of Facebook’s relentless pursuit of understanding their customers deepest needs, desires and behaviors. The Facebook app that Sheryl Sandberg defended by saying that teens ‘consented’ to installing it, was used to target teens as young as 13 so as to track and monitor everything they did on their phones, from private messages and browsing histories to app messages. (I recently read a story about how the Silicon Valley elite, like Sandberg, “are now restricting, or outright banning, screen time for their children.”).
Facebook is relentlessly focused on usability and simplicity. It wants to understand you better than you understand yourself so that it can craft a world through which its advertisers can get you to buy more and more of their products. (There are almost 7 million advertisers using Facebook.) That’s the Facebook business model. Every time you use Facebook, you pay. The currency? Your personal data.
It’s the things we don’t talk about that seem to matter most to us. Today, we choose simplicity, usefulness and convenience over trust and security. We don’t trust Facebook. We use Facebook. So, trust doesn’t matter? Or does convenience simply trump trust?
Just like with the BP oil slick scandal. People didn’t stop using BP stations to fill up their cars, because these stations were too convenient, too close to their homes or workplaces to avoid.
Those that make it simple and easy are ruling the world. Those that understand what people do, rather than what people say, are ruling the world. For good or ill, you can’t craft an effective customer experience on a website or app, `if you don’t first and foremost truly understand your customers. Facebook knows this. Google knows this. But nine out of ten organizations that I deal with don’t. And then we wonder why Facebook and Google have become so dominant?