Facebook, social media’s biggest platform, is facing a crisis of confidence right now. This crisis reached a notable milestone last week, when Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, finally admitted in a September 27, 2017 post:
“After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea. Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it.”
Mr. Zuckerberg’s sort of mea culpa came towards the end of a month that saw momentum building against social media platforms regarding their role in propagating “fake news” from foreign media sources during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In fact, in a September 22nd interview on MSNBC, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia reiterated his long-standing concerns with respect to Russian use of Facebook ads to influence our 2016 election.
On the same day as Mr. Zuckerberg’s Facebook post, Luke Darby of GQ, wrote in an article titled, “Russian Trolls Didn’t Just Flood Facebook with Fake News—They Faked the Accounts of Real Organizations”:
“As Facebook is turning over information on Russian-bought ads to Congress, it’s becoming clear that the disinformation campaign was much more sophisticated than just spreading fake stories about the Clintons killing an FBI agent. Predictably, the ads drove racist and anti-immigrant talking points…”
Sadly, Mr. Darby came to a distressing conclusion:
“In any event, the scope of Russian disinformation on Facebook is staggering, and the revelations are only just starting.”
Steve Kovach then reported in his October 2, 2017 Business Insider post, “Facebook’s response to fake Russian ads is not going to cut it”:
“Facebook doesn’t just have a fake news problem. It also has a fake ads problem.”
Mr. Kovach went on to conclude:
“Right now, Facebook is basically asking the public to trust an organization that has shown no desire to fix its fundamental problems until after a major screwup. That’s unacceptable.”
Mr. Kovach’s conclusion appears to have been vindicated by some of the social media coverage of the horrendous tragedy in Las Vegas. Kathleen Chaykowski of Forbes revealed in her October 2, 2017 report titled, “Facebook And Google Still Have A ‘Fake News’ Problem, Las Vegas Shooting Reveals”:
“Facebook searches for the name of the misidentified suspect on Monday generated a number of fake news results, and the social network’s “Trending Topic” page for the shooting directed users toward more false reports, including stories by Russian propaganda site Sputnik with headlines such as “FBI Says Las Vegas Shooter Has Connection With Daesh Terror Group,” which should have been spotted for review by a human moderator.”
And, Ms. Chaykowski concludes:
“The prominence of false stories after Sunday night’s shooting highlights the urgency of the platforms’ fake news problem and makes it clear the need for more human moderation isn’t going away anytime soon.”
So what does all of this fakery have to do with marketing, specifically, social media marketing in the B2B domain? The credibility of a social media channel is extremely important to any business, whether it’s B2B, B2C or B2G. Social media platforms might argue that the “fake news” and “fake ads” phenomena were largely focused on consumer accounts in specific geopolitical segments. However, they simply cannot guarantee that the pernicious use of bots, fake accounts and fake ads won’t go on to corrupt commercial accounts, if they haven’t begun to already? If a business cannot rely on the authenticity of a marketing channel, it will stop using that channel for advertising, content marketing, thought leadership, and et al.
Thus, it is imperative that Facebook, Google and Twitter re-establish the sanctity of their respective social media platforms for continued use as necessary marketing and revenue-generating tools in the business world. If companies have reason to start doubting the veracity of their CPM numbers, Likes, comments, video views, etc. on social media platforms, it will cause a huge problem in the overall inbound marketing business model. Social media platforms need to ensure that the “fake” does not get baked into their “B2B customer pages” cake, which could begin as innocuously as with the robotic dissemination of competitor disinformation. In fact, everyone in business and politics knows that the longer perceptions linger, the more likely they are to be deemed as reality. If fake traffic is not eliminated or at least seriously curtailed on social media platforms, Facebook could begin to be perceived as Fakebook, Twitter as Counterfeiter, and Google as whatever – as puerile as these monikers might seem, one of them is already gaining steam in news media circles. And, as tennis star, Andre Agassi, used to say in the old Canon ad, “Image is everything.”
The bottom line is we all need to ensure that we conduct our businesses in a truthful and transparent manner. As this article goes to press, news reports indicate that Facebook and Twitter have both agreed to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on November 1, 2017 and testify publicly as part of a congressional probe into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election. Let’s hope that their collective testimony, including that of Google at some point, stops the reputational damage of social media platforms as marketing tools. Social media marketing’s role in a B2B’s revenue performance management (RPM) lifecycle is barely in the early majority phase of the technology adoption life cycle. So it would be disastrous if today’s integrated sales-marketing funnel were to be adversely impacted by a diminishing of social media marketing’s critical role in the RPM lifecycle. It’s time to put the brake on the fake – let’s keep it real in the B2B world!