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What does Mark Zuckerberg need to do to turn his machine into a friendly power, serving mankind instead of exploiting it? A really big overhaul to bring back control to the users, would be a good start.
I’ve intensively investigated Facebook in the last two years, in a broad sense on many aspects, from marketing to privacy, and from terrorism to competition.
After the IPO, the social network has become much more greedy.
Facebook is offering its users the option to grant more and more privacy to each other, precisely because privacy is becoming an important marketing issue. This is very clever. By allowing users more options and easier to handle privacy settings, Facebook is enlarging people’s trust, hoping they remain confident enough in their settings to share much of their life via Facebook.
By allowing users more privacy on public posts, their actual privacy towards ‘the machine’ (regarding their much broader array of behaviors on Facebook) still remains negligible, and so advertising revenues can still climb, as needed, to satisfy shareholders.
How Facebook could be
But window dressing is not enough to survive for Facebook. It needs to turn around the marketing system. Advertising is so 20th century. Yet still in 2013, Facebook heavily relies on generic commercials, which most people simply ignore or even hate. Advertising and individual needs are seldom attuned to each other. The solution by people in the marketing game of making friends of brands is a nice idea, but economically it is just as absurd. Things are fundamentally wrong and Facebook can solve them.
A better, 21st century Facebook marketing concept would be based on real consumer needs. If people want to buy, or just use, products and services, Facebook should offer mechanisms to get the best results based on users’ own buying needs.
Return the data to the users
Facebook’s collection of personal details resembles predatory hunting. If Zuckerberg really has brains and brawn, he will give us back the details. We would each be in charge of our own cash register of data, and we would be able to erase and add data simply ourselves, just like on the open Timeline. We could then decide with which companies we would share these.
Facebook continually urges us to share, but in fact it’s time for Facebook itself to share with us. An enormous increase in confidence would be the result, certainly in the long-term. This could be the key to Facebook’s long and happy life.
Peter Olsthoorn was one of the first European journalists to cover the internet, having done so since 1994. He recently finished writing The Power of Facebook ebooks which come in from 100, 300 and 500 page editions for different target groups.