COLUMN: Has social media passed its peak?

Saul Klein at the University of Victoria writes about erosion of trust at Facebook and Twitter

Social media share prices took a beating at the end of last week, with Facebook investors losing US$120 billion of share value and Twitter ones losing US$5 billion. Both of these companies lost 20 per cent of their value in a day, along with Snapchat, which lost five per cent.

Are investors waking up to what consumers already know, that social media has passed its peak?

Facebook and Twitter have grown rapidly on the promise of greater connectivity. Along with the benefits, however, the dark side of these new technologies has come to the surface and consumer trust is eroding fast.

The annual Gustavson Brand Trust Index shows how social media brands are perceived by consumers. Of 299 brands surveyed in Canada in 2018, Twitter ranked #296, Facebook ranked # 295, and Snapchat was #294. These are also among the brands that Canadians are least likely to recommend.

If we recognize that people don’t want to do business with brands they don’t trust, the over-inflated growth projections of social media brands was clearly an illusion.

Now that it is becoming clear that the emperor has no clothes, we should expect continuing turbulence in the social media space. Continuing large increases in subscriber growth are unlikely to materialize unless the companies do something about the way they are perceived.

READ MORE: Facebook faces day of reckoning on Wall Street

What was once seen as the advent of a new era of free and open communications has turned into a nightmare of manipulation, loss of privacy and hate-speech.

Rather than new media creating strong alternatives to traditional channels, allowing a greater diversity of views with governments and other powerful stakeholders having less control over access to information, the opposite has happened. Authoritarian regimes are now more able to control content and manipulate readers and viewers.

Without legitimate gatekeepers, truth has evaporated and it is becoming increasingly difficult for consumers to distinguish fake news from any other kind.

What was once seen as a benign tool for people to stay in contact with one another, to build communities around common interests and share experiences, has become a vehicle for unscrupulous agents to use personal information to target and shape opinion. The loss of privacy has led to intervention in our democratic processes and sharp increases in identity theft and online scams.

What was once seen as a boon to free speech has created a platform for vitriol and online bullying.

Where we previously saw self-restraint on the expression of abhorrent opinions, reinforced by social norms, we now see impulsive and imprudent commentary and reaction.

Where we wanted greater diversity of opinion, we now have greater containment of views and are increasingly exposed only to those who share the same opinions as we do, reinforcing the fractionalization of our societies.

Is it any wonder that we have lost trust in social media?

In many cases, the social media brands themselves have aided and abetted the dark side. They have been slow to protect our private information, happy to sell our data to the highest bidder, and tried to avoid taking responsibility for online abuse and the spread of hate-speech.

READ MORE: Bad week in social media gets worse; Twitter hammered on Wall Street

As many other companies have come to appreciate, the route to long-term success is based on serving the needs of one’s consumers, not on manipulating and exploiting them for short-term results.

That requires building trusted relationships and behaving responsibly. Until and unless the social media brands appreciate this reality, their value is likely to continue to slide.

Saul Klein is the dean of the Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria

Just Posted

Port McNeill Cannabis Committee stumbles out of the gate

“I’m worried we could just be all over the map and I need to see a plan.”

Port Alice’s new RCMP officers going through clearance process

The medical process can take several months to complete as there are several steps involved.

East Zeballos placed under evacuation alert as “out of control” wildfire approaches homes

BC Wildfire Service says rolling debris on steep terrain poses danger to firefighters

B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

This is only the fourth state of emergency ever issued during a fire season

Port Hardy Fire Rescue knocks down wildland fire

PHFR members responded to the scene, located the fire, and contained it to the immediate area.

Happy birthday Boler: An anniversary gathering of the cutest campers in Winnipeg

Hundreds of the unique trailers in Winnipeg to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Manitoba invention

Woodpecker goes out with a bang, starts grassfire in B.C.

Untimely death of woodpecker causes power outage in Cawston

Communities on evacuation alert in many areas of B.C. as wildfires flare

Warning was issued for 583-square-kilometre blaze that has charred Fraser Lake to Fort St. James

Kelowna’s crying judge refuses to pull herself from case

Judge Monica McParland won’t pull herself off of case.

Complaint coming about cattle prod use at B.C. rodeo

Fair reps investigate after Vancouver Humane Society pics show shocking device at bullriding event

PHOTOS: B.C. city wakes up to darkness under wildfire smoke

The rest of the province also dealing with thick haze as smoky skies continue

Publication ban lifted on details about Fredericton shooting that killed 4

Judge lifts publication ban on court documents related to the Fredericton shooting

Kim XO is Black Press Media’s fashionista

Starting Sept. 7, stylist Kim XO will host Fashion Fridays on the Life channel on Black Press Media

RCMP cleared after woman fatally overdoses on fentanyl

Charges not recommended after IIO says woman appears to have brought fentanyl into her cell

Most Read