In January 2020, Netflix made another addition to their already fantastic catalog of documentaries with The Social Dilemma. In the time since, public discussion about the message of the documentary has been swirling around numerous news outlets and social media. For those who have not seen it, The Social Dilemma covers the methods in which social media platforms advertise and recommend content to its users, with evidence that social media contains the power to ruin lives and sow political and social discord in our society. As a digital media company that offers social media management and advertisement as part of our services, we took a deep dive into this documentary and wanted to share our initial thoughts about some of the main topics that were mentioned.
Advertising on social media is as big as they make it sound
According to a study found at statista.com, over 90% of companies in the United States are using some sort of social media for marketing purposes. With advertisers looking to capture the attention of their audience, social media companies offer a uniquely engaged audience with a low barrier to entry. Facebook has a well-developed advertisement platform that allows you to help define your audience you want to target and makes this available for all businesses looking to utilize the service.
They know who you are and what you like
Social media companies develop in-house algorithms that suggest content that is likely to capture the attention of the user based on their interests, likes, and follows, then sell this information to advertisers to better target users and convert sales. Understanding and marketing to your audience is marketing-101, but technology allows it to be done with a higher degree of precision and in real-time. We mentioned cookies in a previous blog post and they apply again here. Internet service providers and social media platforms can capture your browsing history to better curate ads and generate calls to action that directly conform to a user’s interests.
These same algorithms can suggest controversial content
One of the key issues that The Social Dilemma addresses is that the same algorithms used to suggest products and services can be tuned to offer misinformation and even radicalization outlets. Due to its relatively short lifespan up until now, social media does not offer adequate regulations on who they allow to advertise, and how they deliver their message. This brings up issues of free speech on the internet and what can or cannot be hosted in public forums. This is absolutely a key point of focus that we must be aware of, especially given the volatility of the current political climate in the US and around the world.
Social media has the power for good and bad
It would be irresponsible to ignore the damage that social media can cause in society, but it would be equally as irresponsible to forget the good it has sparked as well. Many people believe that a complete disconnect from all things social media is more beneficial for them in the long run, and that may be so, but ultimately people need to decide for themselves how much information they want to share about themselves, and how much they will let the opinions of others dictate how they view themselves. These are human issues as old as time, just addressed in a different medium.
As a digital media agency, we recognize the great benefit social media marketing can have on growing a business, yet also recognize that too much involvement in social media can be a bad thing. Either way, we at BloomSocial would encourage you to watch The Social Dilemma and decide for yourself how to handle your social media engagement going forward.