Why marketers should worry about social media regulation (and not in the way you think)

People navigate smartphones sitting in public

Published October 1, 2020

If you’re a marketer who uses social media– like we do!– we need to have a chat about how the relative lack of regulation around social media platforms is threatening the usefulness of these platforms as marketing and advertising tools.

People are losing trust in social platforms, in ways that cause them to limit their time or usage on these tools, or closing their accounts altogether. SproutSocial’s 2020 report on Facebook stats reports that while Facebook use is growing for users ages 65+, growth among Millenials and Boomers has slowed, and Gen X usage is trending downward. And according to the same report, fewer teens and Gen Z are using social media than in years past.

Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash

Why, you say? For starters: Cambridge Analytica. The Social Dilemma. QAnon. Trolls. Bots. Hate speech. Private groups allowing white supremacy.  Inadequate reporting and consequences for hate speech and harassment. Misinformation. 

Does this mean that a business should stop using Facebook for organic posts or paid advertising? Not at all. But it does mean that we’re seeing a trend of declining usage among key marketing audiences. And a Mashable article about a Gallup poll in June notes that a whopping 80% of Americans don’t trust large tech companies to do their own regulation. They also note that apparently the group polled doesn’t trust government regulation, either, but that’s a different issue. 

The takeaway for marketers is that eroding trust in the ability of social media companies to offer safe, secure online spaces that protect user’s privacy, use robust algorithms and measures to shut down harassment and trolls, and deal with an onslaught of misinformation could point to a mass exodus of social media users in years to come. We’re already seeing many of these issues persist in real time, with only a tepid response from leadership at these companies. The time to push for better regulation around social media is now.

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