Study: Consumers Don’t Fully Understand Social Media & Search
Men demonstrate a higher understanding of Facebook’s monetization strategies at 57%, versus women at 51%, according to findings from The Search Agency and Harris Interactive’s study “2012 Online User Behavior and Engagement,” which analyzes consumer behavior and knowledge around social networks and search engines.
When asked how search engines make money, nearly 29% of survey respondents believe brands pay annual dues for use, while 20% believe that users pay for premium search features. More than one-third of U.S. online adults believe search engines sell users’ personal data to marketers.
While we may take the obvious “duh” business models of Google and Facebook as common knowledge here in the nerdosphere, it still shouldn’t come as a shock when the ordinary, average Joe consumer really has no understanding what powers these online behemoths’ finances. Shit, many people don’t even know what a web browser is.
However, as we technophiles debate the merits of ad-supported media, free platforms and the negative implications when a company’s bread and butter comes from third parties not users themselves, the rest of the general public simply sits back and soaks in benefits from all the positives. But are they the naive ones or are we?
Don’t get me wrong, I always think consumers should become more savvy, knowledgeable and aware in the face of possible exploitation or downright fraud. Yet with platforms like Facebook, would knowing that they make billions off those stupid little sidebar ads and annoying sponsored feed stories even affect how people use it? I highly doubt it.
Take a look at the Instagram clusterfuck last month as a glimpse into the world of “who gives a shit?”. The inaccurate notion that the company could sell your photos was reported by most major media outlets and reached nearly every nook and cranny of the Instagram-using public. Yes, boycotts and rage quits commenced by the vocal minority, but for all intensive purposes people went about their day snapping and filtering photos by the bucketload. They knew what was going on and frankly didn’t care. In their eyes, the benefits outweighed the potential negatives.
While I applaud the initiative of folks like Dalton Caldwell who are currently building out platforms with the core intent of a user-accountable business model, I’d be remiss to ponder whether it’s implicitly necessary to do so when the general public clearly doesn’t view the notion as a credible value proposition whatsoever. This plays directly into the false narrative that Google, Facebook, Twitter, and so forth are inherently anti-consumer just by the pure fact they’re beholden to advertisers for income.
Sure, people don’t like ads. Sure, people would rather not have their personal data used for any reason, let alone just for ad targeting. But people, regardless if they’re specifically knowledgeable about these commercial facets or not, they have overwhelmingly spoken with action that the trade-off is more than well worth it. If this weren’t the case, as market forces take effect, we’d have seen a decline in these “free” platforms rather than stunning growth. Are you telling me that this is only the case because more than half the public is just fucking stupid? (Don’t answer that.)
Simply put, no one really cares how their favorite websites make money. If people are getting immense worth out of them for free, as long as it doesn’t cause unmanned drones to snipe them out from the skies, then who are we to call them ignorant for not knowing how the whole value exchange really works?
Call them an idiot for watching Honey Boo Boo, not for using Facebook.