Tag Archives | facebook

Facebook Study Blurs Ethical Guidelines

Facebook has published a study which Internet Psychologist Graham Jones believes was potentially unethical.

The research involved deliberately altering the emotional content of the timelines of almost 700,000 users of Facebook without their knowledge that this was being done. The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The participants in the study did not know that their timelines were being manipulated to alter its emotional content value.

According to Graham Jones this is borderline unethical. He said: “All research should get the informed consent of participants in advance of the study being undertaken. Whilst there are some exceptions to this, such as the results being significantly altered if people knew about the study in advance, it is considered good ethical practice to find ways around such limitations and allow participants to know about the research before being asked to take part.”

He added: “Even if you cannot inform people in advance, you should let them know once the study is completed so that they can decide whether data about them is included in the analysis. Some people may want such data destroyed and not used and they should be given this opportunity if you have not been able to get their prior informed consent to take part.”

Graham Jones also said: “The researchers appear to have treated this as data about words, rather than taking into account the psychological impact of what they were doing. The manipulation of timelines to provide either a more positive or more negative emotional experience for the users could well have had an impact upon them.”

There is some evidence of a link between social media use and low mood in some studies, said Graham Jones, which means that anyone manipulating social media timeliness needs to be especially careful.

“I do not think enough care and attention to the participants in this study was given,” said Graham Jones.

Categories: Press Releases

Social media is less help to business than you might think

One of the benefits of social media is that you can use peer pressure to help change the minds of your potential customers. You can see this happening all the time, where individuals on Facebook or Twitter, for instance, recommend a product or service having made a purchase. The idea behind this is two-fold. Firstly, it increases awareness using word-of-mouth. But secondly, it also has a psychological effect whereby people are subtly influenced by peer pressure to consider the product or service, even if they have previously dismissed it.

Graphic depicting eletcronic word of mouthThe power of social influence to change minds is well-established. However, new research reveals an interesting twist to social influence: it does not last. The study from China, where the psychological power of social groups is significant, shows that peer pressure only lasts for a maximum of three days. It turns out that our opinion reverts back to our original thinking within 72 hours of apparently having changed our minds.

This is an important finding as it shows that our established thinking is long-lasting. We are not as open to change and social influence as we might think.

For businesses this is a significant finding. It means that you cannot rely on single instances of peer pressure and recommendations. Instead of asking your customers to recommend you once after a purchase they need to be recommending you every three days if their influence is to last.

This research ties in with other studies which show that the power of social media is related to the amount of work you do on it. That implies that if you want your business to benefit from social media and the resulting social influence it can have, then you need to be using it constantly. It is not a “once a week” thing or something you can do when you feel like it. If social networking is to have the influence you want, then you need to be constantly using the power of peer pressure it provides so that the three-day-effect does not happen.

The people you are targeting are going to return to their old ways of thinking about you unless you use peer pressure at least once in every 72 hours.

Categories: Social

Facebook: The Psychology of a Ten Year Old

cartoon illustration design for tenth birthday anniversaryYou can’t have missed it, surely? Facebook is 10 years old today. It is ten years today since the company was first incorporated. Of course, it wasn’t until almost three years later that the system went public. In those initial years it was a private network within Ivy League universities. Nowadays, it is a global phenomenon.

But Facebook is still a child.

Can you remember what you were like at 10? You were probably in your last year at junior school, thinking you were all “grown up” because it wasn’t long before “big school”. You had also realised by this time that you were your own person, you were starting to want your own way much more; the seeds of those teenage conflicts were being planted. And you were starting to realise what real friends were, rejecting some of those relationships you had from your younger years because they were only based on who your Mum and Dad knew; now you wanted to create your own friendships. The tenth year for many children is the beginning of that mental turmoil when we start moving out of dependent childhood on our path to becoming independent individuals.

Of course, Facebook will be popping the champagne corks today celebrating their success. Yet, even within corporate development they are still children. After all, one of the companies on Facebook, the Shirley Plantation, is officially America’s oldest business which started trading in 1613. But even that old-established business has a long way to go to catch up with, for instance, the world’s oldest hotel which has been taking in paying guests in Japan since 705, making the business 1,299 years older than Facebook. I wonder if Facebook will still be running in the year 3313, some 1,299 years from now.

Studies of corporate histories show some striking similarities between the companies that last. In a fascinating study of the history of Shell, published in Business Week magazine, there were some rather comforting details as to what makes a company last a long time. Those that survive more than ten years tend to be tolerant and responsive to the environment in which they work. But crucially, the study of corporate histories found that return on investment to shareholders was completely unrelated to long term success.

So, here we have a ten year old business that has for the past couple of years hooked itself up to the stock market which is baying for better results and greater profits. That in turn is forcing Facebook to introduce more and more methods of raising cash, such as increased levels of advertising, which are annoying its users. “I didn’t join Facebook to be sold to,” is a common complaint. Hang on a minute – those successful long-term companies were responsive to their environment showing tolerance. Does Facebook sound like it is doing that? And those businesses that have been around for hundreds of years haven’t focused on returning an investment to shareholders. Does that sound like Facebook?

At first sight it might look like Facebook is heading for the hills never to be seen again.

But, it is a ten-year-old, the age at which rejection of the past begins to kick in. As the company grows up and starts to mature it may well start establishing its own identity much more, responding to its own “friends” (users) much more tolerantly, rejecting the so-called powers of its investors. It could well be a lesson in future MBA courses that when the company grew up and focused on its real customers it was the turning point in its development.

And that’s something that happens in all ten-year olds – they grow up and start their journey to adulthood, rejecting childish behaviour and focusing on what really matters to them. Facebook may be congratulating themselves today, but in reality their journey is only just beginning.

Categories: Social