The Tech Industry’s Pandora's Box
We need to focus less on content and more on community.
The Birth of Pandora by James Barry, 1804 (ArtUK - Creative Commons)
The Birth of Pandora brings to life the mythological story of the gods' revenge on humans. Prometheus stole fire from heaven, and Zeus took revenge by presenting Pandora, the first woman, to Prometheus' brother Epimetheus. (Prometheus got a whole other set of nasty things visited upon him personally.)
In the painting, the gods are contributing to Pandora's creation, including the three cherubs approaching with the jar. Pandora opened this jar (later translated as a box) she gave to Epimetheus containing sickness, death and many other unspecified evils which were then released into the world.
In modern times the idiom Pandora's box means "Any source of great and unexpected troubles," or "A present which seems valuable but which in reality is a curse."
Pandora's Box Today
We received our own version of Pandora's box about 15 years ago. If we think of Big Tech as the all-powerful Zeus or Jupiter, at whose temple we worship, and of these late teens/early 20s college dropout founder whiz-kids as Prometheus, we're holding the Pandora's box of social media platforms.
According to an NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll, the American public isn't too keen on social media companies like Facebook and Twitter. In fact, sizable majorities say these sites do more to divide the country than unite it, and that they spread falsehoods rather than news.
Some of the highlights:
Six in 10 Americans say they don’t trust Facebook at all to protect their personal information.
Eighty-two percent say social media sites do more to waste people’s time, versus 15% who say they do more to use Americans’ time well.
Fifty-five percent believe social media does more to spread lies and falsehoods, versus thirty-one percent who say it does more to spread news and information.
Bottom line: if America was giving social media a Yelp review, a majority would give it zero stars.
This is a serious problem. Not just for Big Tech and its own issues with reputation and regulation. But for society.
We've got what amounts to a public utility via multiple platforms (lest we forget, Facebook owns four of them) that have effectively spiraled out of control. In granting netizens the ability to communicate as freely and anonymously as we wish, these platforms have brought out the best and the worst of human nature.
What's more, it's not clear that regulation is going to do anything to rein this in. And the founders themselves don't seem to be able to claw back or control their creations. The end result is that we're left with an imperfect world in which to operate our businesses (nothing new there).
Given that this is what we have to work with right now, why not make a commitment to less advertising and more community-building? That is, put fewer resources into competing for what little attention is left out there, and instead create a sense of belonging for your customers.
Put your efforts into retention and relationship building rather than chasing down someone who might not want to hear from you in the first place.
You already know that it's more cost-effective to market to existing customers than to constantly scramble after new ones. Why aren't you putting that knowledge to use?
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