If you’ve been following the Facebook fallout related news, you’ve seen that Facebook continues to get slammed by media for improper handling of user’s sensitive data. And in turn, Facebook is altering the way it does business, in sweeping moves that will affect social media and content marketers.
In the last week, it has been confirmed that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that improperly leveraged Facebook consumer data, had data on 87 million Facebook users. As I discussed in last week’s #MartechMonday post, Facebook has made drastic changes to its data handling and privacy policies… changes that are already affecting marketers:
1. Fewer organic posts for businesses
2. Facebook Messenger chatbots have been shut down
3. Facebook is being more restrictive with data
And then, in the last few days, Facebook has also rolled back much of its mobile user data collection, something that will affect the ability of marketers to tightly target consumers with advertising.
Can social media be saved?
Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or one of the dozens of niche social media sites, it is likely that you are active on some social media platform. My professional opinion is that that will not change. Social networking provides a valuable means of connecting with loved ones or topics you care about.
That said, from a marketers perspective, things are changing quickly and the need for increased privacy online may hurt your efforts at distributing content to your audience. While some may argue that Facebook’s changes will benefit consumers, it can also be argued that consumers will receive poorer targeted ads, and the overall economy will suffer as businesses are not able to efficiently market their goods to consumers. In fact, when Facebook made a change to their algorithm in January, aimed at showing less organic business produced content, advertising costs increased 122 percent year over year.
So, the question is not “can social media be saved?” but is actually “can social media marketing be preserved for marketers?”
The marriage of blockchain and social media
An article from the New York Times proposes an idea that social media should be democratized, with the users being the decision-makers and owners of the network. The article identifies a key problem of the current social media model as Facebook “harvests the creative output of billions of people and turns it into a giant, centralized enterprise, with most users sharing none of the economic value they create and getting no say in the platform’s governance.”
The NYT article briefly mentions blockchain technology as a potential panacea for the social media problem. The article doesn’t go into any detail, however.
As such, in a ClearVoice exclusive interview with Jeremy Epstein, CEO of Never Stop Marketing and a leading expert on how marketing will be changed by blockchain, I’ve garnered further insight into how marketers will thrive in the new world of blockchain based social media platforms.
How blockchain technology could benefit the world of social media marketing and content distribution
The remainder of this article will present snippets of this interview and a discussion of how it will put content marketers back in the driver seat.
Jeremy Epstein speaking about the quick growth in blockchain and marketing
Ben: Earlier this year I wrote a blog post about the early inroads of blockchain into marketing. How has the blockchain and marketing landscape changed in the last few months?
Jeremy: If [social media networks] are going to get decentralized, what happens there? So, I said, let me take Scott Brinker’s awesome Martech 5,000 landscape, and what if I were to take the same categories and I was to look for the emergence of the blockchain martech industry, that decentralizes some of the things I talked about in the ebook. So last September we did the first publication and I found 22 projects that I could even remotely say were blockchain marketing related… We released the second one a couple weeks ago, and in six months, we saw 400 percent growth, and that’s just the ones I know about.
source: Never Stop Marketing blog post
Jeremy Epstein on a need for more transparency
Ben: What are some of the driving forces behind this exploding emergence of blockchain in the world of marketing?
Jeremy: There’s a larger cultural melia going on right now, which everyone has picked up on, about losing faith and trust in centralized institutions. We don’t need to spend too much time on that. You have this larger fake news problem going on. And then you look another level up at the existing, centralized providers [of social media networking]. You don’t need me to tell you that Facebook’s having a little bit of a hard time right now. Google’s having a little bit of a hard time right now. I have a post from six months ago where I was predicting Cambridge Analytica, without actually calling it Cambridge Analytica. This is a problem waiting to happen. It’s like you’re letting a kid play around with knives. Eventually, something bad is going to happen.
Jeremy Epstein on click-fraud free advertising
Ben: How about advertising? Your ebook talks about advertising and blockchain. How will blockchain decrease click-fraud in advertising?
Jeremy: On top of all the data stuff, then you’ve got advertisers… but because people now, especially advertisers, they feel this tremendous pain. They’re not getting ROI for their [ad spend]. Their advertising is being put next to Nazi and anti-semitic stuff, and by the way, when we upload our data on our customers it’s getting stolen and manipulated by the Russians to swing political campaigns, which is problematic on multiple levels.
Ben: So there’s obviously a problem there with marketing. How does this help with advertising in particular?
Jeremy: A couple ways. Number one, the single biggest use-case for blockchain is let’s take out the middlemen in advertising, who don’t add any value. Well, they do add a brokering of trust, but blockchain removes the need for trust [as all users on a blockchain-powered platform are verified, real humans.]
- Number one, you’re eliminating all that friction and inefficiency.
- Number two is transparency. I want to know that the ad I’m buying is actually going to show up on the site. The audit-ability of [advertising is better with blockchain] and now I can actually check that without having to go through [third parties].
- Number three is that I’d like to ensure an actual person saw it, not just some bot. So now, we’re going to have a system, that allows us to see the entire experience and we’ll say, “Oh, I spent this money, it showed up on this website, to a person with this crypto wallet/ID, and okay, now I know I got the ROI for what I spent.” And I didn’t lose 50 percent of it [to click-fraud] along the way.
Easier identification and leveraging of influencers
Jeremy and I went on, in a lengthy discussion, to talk about how blockchain is going to enable marketers to better identify and then leverage influencers. In particular, we discussed SocialMedia.Market, a decentralized marketplace for connecting social media content creators with advertisers. This tool, highlighted as one of the martech blockchain players in Jeremy’s Blockchain Marketing Landscape report, does just what Jeremy and I were discussing. By cutting out the middleman and profit-driven motivated corporation, operational costs are reduced; more money is put into the hands of the influencers; click-fraud is eliminated; and transactions are safer.
One key feature of this new, decentralized platform, is that influencers will be easier to identify as machine-learning and blockchain-enabled user verification can prove out the true value of any given social media user, from your micro-influencers with only a few hundred followers, to your celebrity influencers with millions of followers.
Example of a decentralized social media network
While Facebook is being slammed for user data privacy issues, and then goes on to harm marketing interests, both consumers and advertisers are looking for a way to disrupt the current system.
With Facebook, users post content on the social network and Facebook profits on traffic driven by that content. In the new world of decentralized social media, users post content and are rewarded directly for the traffic they drive.
Steemit is a relatively new social platform for sharing content. What makes Steemit unique, however, is that users are directly compensated, in the form of cryptocurrency, for their posts on the site. As a post is viewed, commented on, and upvoted, it earns more STEEM tokens (the cryptocurrency for Steemit).
While this platform is still in beta, it claims to already have 9 million unique monthly users. Facebook and the other major players in content distribution and social media likely aren’t paying any attention to Steemit and the other small threats in their rearview mirror. That said, as a content creator, you may be able to take advantage of an early mover advantage by beginning to distribute your content in these up-and-coming social networks.