Earlier this morning I wrote a post wondering just what it was that the consumer was winning as we rush through this increasingly demanding social media world that is occupying us and our time. It was an after a fashion questioning rebuttal of a prior post by Louis Gray and he was good enough to leave a comment that tried to address my questions. At the same time though he also raised another issue with which I have a really hard time reconciling with the real world – in contrast to the electronic one.
The point that he was trying to make is the same one that I see being echoed all over the place in light of Facebook’s recent understanding of why there was a backlash to the changes they had made to their terms of service. This is what Louis said in the comment
Regarding Facebook’s walled garden strategy, which you mentioned, comments from the panel suggested more data will be allowed to flow out. Steve Gillmor positioned FriendFeed as open and Facebook as a walled garden, and the ensuing conversation made it sound like Facebook was going to continue opening up.
What I would say in response is just because that Facebook; and other services in the social media sphere, say that they are open and transparent it doesn’t mean that some very basic business fundamentals have changed – or will change no matter the proclamations of warm and fuzzy openness.
Object of having a business
Number one rule for the creation of any business is to make money. Even if you are giving something away for nothing at some point the company has to make money. To do this you need two ingredients – product and consumers that want that product. Sure you can be good buddies with the company next door. Hell you can even share customer information so that the prime beneficiary is the consumer base that you both lust for but at some point you are going to have to try and do something to increase your consumer base; after all it is about the money.
Raiding the pantry
So there comes a time where you have to start looking around to see what you can do to get your consumers to spend more money at your business. You see that one of your competitors has a really nifty idea that your consumers go there to use or buy so you look at how you can do the same. As much as you might like your competitor and as friendly as you might be you want their consumers to spend more of the money with your business.
So you have a choice – see if they are willing to sell to you or copy what they are doing. There are arguments for either strategy but the end result is the same – you want to increase your consumer base at their expense.
How does openness, transparency and data portability play into this?
Sure it makes for a great smoke screen and helps flip the gullible into being advocates for your business but in the end it is all about making money, gaining new consumers from where ever you can and then keeping them coming back to your company all the time. You don’t make money when they go and visit your competitor.
Facebook, FriendFeed, Twitter and any number of the other services in the social media sphere can talk all the data portability they want. They could have glass walls around their gardens and easy spinning turnstiles at the doors to those gardens but it doesn’t change the fact that they are still walls and those turnstiles will still spin you back into the gardens.
Business is business and it’s all about making money
Just because you are open and transparent doesn’t mean you aren’t there to make money. Just because you mouth all the nice warm and fuzzy buzzwords at conferences doesn’t change the fact that you will do anything to make sure your business comes out the winner.
If this wasn’t the case then Facebook and all the others would be run as non-profits with great big donation buttons on their pages. Openness has nothing to do with trying to get as much of the customer base as is possible and then keep them – even if it means making yourself appear to be doing something that you really had no intention of doing – or wanting to do.
It is just another gimmick in a bag with lots of other gimmicks.
Remember it is all about making money and anyone who doesn’t thinks so – well here’s some sugar cubes and a copy of Jimi Hendrick’s All Along the Watchtower … have a blast.