There’s no doubt about it, social media, especially Facebook and Twitter are having a major impact on American culture: including music, entertainment and, especially politics. Public relations across all these industries must be very aware of what’s happening in the turbulent and unforgiving realm of social media. This past year only underscored that point.
But, this time, it was the platforms themselves that were the target of the positive and negative PR. Both Facebook and Twitter faced repeated inquiries into their efforts to stop foreign powers from influencing the American political process. After the rough year and the incessant questions, both brands needed some good news, and, beginning in late 2017, at least one of them began getting some.
Twitter showed a spark, with stronger than expected sales translating into profit for the first time ever. Stock is trading above $30 for the first time in three years.
Facebook, meanwhile, confused and frustrated some investors by announcing certain changes that appeared antithetical to turning a profit. First, Facebook once again tweaked news feeds to reduce the amount of content being listed by publishers. Then, the company admitted users are not spending the amount of time they used to checking their feeds. The culprit getting the blame? Facebook’s choice to post fewer viral videos.
That’s not to say Facebook is really struggling. The social media innovator is still the unquestioned behemoth in the industry, and the controlling team seems to inherently understand exactly how and where to throw its weight around.
And, despite the good news, there are still some lingering issues with Twitter. The company is still trying to shake accusations that it didn’t do enough to stop the spread of “fake news” on its platform over the past two years. Facebook was hit with the same criticism, but that company appeared to do more, at least publicly, to address the issue.
Facebook, though, is staring down more accusations of creating “bubbles” for its users, rather than offering a real, authentic user experience. The allegation is that Facebook encourages people to be socially cocooned in groups that only think like they do, so many people are not getting exposed to views and perspectives outside like-minded people and preferred media sources.
Facebook has weathered these kinds of allegations before and come out strong, but, with midterm elections looming, it’s likely the “meddling” narratives with begin to sound once again. Both Facebook and Twitter need to show some progress on addressing these issues if they want to win back customer trust.