In recent days we’ve been hearing a lot of coverage on the news about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. The latter was contracted to work for Trump’s presidential campaign.
According to Christopher Wylie who worked for Cambridge Analytica, the company is a “Full-service propaganda machine”. He goes on to say that “if you can control all the streams of information around your opponent you influence how they perceive that battlespace and you can then change how they will be influenced and react.”
You might want to watch The Guardian interview. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXdYSQ6nu-M
In a nut shell, what they did was collect tens of millions of Facebook profiles, analyze them in order to understand how to influence people in order to “change their perception of reality” by providing content that they would find on Facebook and that would affect their behaviour with respect to the election.
Cambridge Analytica call it Data driven behaviour change.
Marc Turnbull, the company’s managing director said the following in a hidden camera interview about how they target voters: “It’s no good fighting an election campaign on facts because actually it’s all about emotion. The two fundamental human drivers are hopes and fears and many of those are unspoken and even unconscious. You didn’t know that was a fear until you saw something that just evoked that reaction from you.”
So that’s how it’s done. You create compelling (and possibly false) content that favors your objective which plays on people’s hopes and fears, publish it in social media and watch it propagate.
I’m hoping it isn’t surprising to anyone that this would happen. The social media business model is, after all, to get as many people as possible to indiscriminately use a software application to communicate, share their hopes and fears with their friends and sometimes the entire planet.
And all of this is free to use. They make money by selling advertising opportunities to companies that want to sell you products and services. As a marketer you can create an add and choose with a fair amount of precision, who will see it. And it works quite well. I use it all the time.
The difference is that when I use social media advertising, I don’t publish false or fake information.
As a consumer you must address the content you see with, as Christopher Wylie says: “a healthy dose of scepticism.” Question what you read and make up your own mind as to its veracity and accuracy.
Remember that if something is free, you are the product.
As a marketer, provide value in an authentic manner. You must absolutely do whatever you can to understand your target audience’s hopes and fears and use that knowledge to present solutions that will help them solve problems or enhance their life.
But you MUST NOT try to change your readers’ behaviour by putting forward false or inaccurate information.