Let’s get this straight – Facebook is a business, not a cuddly social network. Thomas Power (who presented at a recent MIPAA Business Academy workshop on the new PR Influencers) claims in his YouTube video it’s on the way to being bigger than Google and could even become a bank.
Power calls social media a name game, where the winner is the one with all the names. Back in 2002, the United Nations identified that 29 of the world’s 100 largest economic entities were transnational corporations. Last year, Fast Company magazine highlighted the size of Wal-Mart as the world’s biggest company.
Such “real world”, bricks and mortar organisations have been subject to much criticism and pressure on them to behave in a socially responsible way – and consequently they have employed PR professionals to integrate CSR into their business, or at least, attempt to manage their reputations. But what about the newer social media giants?
What makes these guys different is that their power comes when you’ve “joined” their network – because it doesn’t feel like a basic transactional relationship that you might have with a goliath of a supermarket. In Facebook, you’re just chatting with friends, playing at being a farmer or campaigning for some major or minor cause – aren’t you?
The message of Facebook is that it is:
Giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected… Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them.
Whether Facebook or Twitter are your friendly SM hangouts or mega powerful databanks – their growth can be put down to media hype and word of mouth. They used the power of the network to build the network (probably with a little media relations or promotional PR seeding).
But it is interesting to see the media start to turn, at least against Facebook. So isn’t it time that it took more responsibility for its social role – and looked at the real value of public relations in the face of so many emerging issues?
There are complaints that it is ignoring child safety issues or leading them into Farmville debt – even that it’s causing parents to spy on their children. Okay, so it’s easy for the media to begin to dump the world’s evils all at the door of Facebook.
But when the site is being used to ask UK users if they’ve registered to vote, and the German government expresses concerns about the privacy of 400 million users – you can’t have all the names, without taking some responsibility.
To date, Facebook doesn’t seem concerned about managing its reputation – and maybe the fact that so many people (even those who should know better) using social media don’t care about their own reputation, makes the company feel invincible.
But as we all flocked to Facebook – and left Bebo floundering – isn’t its power only as strong as the network of names? Like a tower of playing cards, couldn’t we bring it toppling back down, if the lack of responsibility outweighs the time-wasting delights it brings (as proven by Southpark in “You have 0 friends“)?