Next time a new and shiny social network or startup comes along, three key questions must be asked before we go all in and invest our resources energy and time. What is your mission? What’s the common perception people have about you? And, finally, what is your ambition? I present you with an imaginary interview where I ask Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google about their mission and their ambitions. Lights on, sound check done, my famous guests nest comfortably in their velvet armchairs under the spotlight, and I channel Oprah, David Letterman, and Barbara Walters combined to get the best out of my interviews. For the purpose of my interview, brands look and talk just like people.
[Music starts playing, social media logos flying around the room like a warm blizzard. This is part 1 of the series of four episodes, and we will focus on Facebook’s mission, ambition and our perceptions.]
Me: Hello Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google! [Clap, clap, clap, clap]. Thank you for coming to my show; it is always great to see you all in one room. Today’s program is called Mission, Perception and Ambition.
[Audience claps again, and as my guests smile their eyes shine with uncanny confidence, teeth blindingly white under the studio lights. Everyone is wearing a hoody, except for Twitter.]
Facebook: Allow me to begin. After all, I am the biggest social media network in the room, and, arguably the most successful, especially since our launch of the new Facebook app. Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.
Me: That’s great, Facebook. In preparation for today’s show we took to the streets and asked some of your biggest fans – developers, marketers, and social media types about their perception of Facebook, to see how it aligns with your mission. Here are some of the questions we have heard.
[Video goes on air. Developers, marketers, and social media types from various countries of all shapes, sizes and ages ask the following questions]
Facebook, how does advertising fit with your mission? What are your thoughts on the inherent conflict between your vision of everyone open and connected and privacy of your users? It seems you want to rule the World Wide Web and know way more about us than you should. If your mission were to simply help us connect and be open, wouldn’t it make sense to do so on our terms and build the platform that way? Make the code open, your algorithms transparent? Why do our fan pages never reach more than a certain percentage of the fanbase? Did you know that whenever we discuss Toronto’s mayor Ford, you advertise cars to us? We still like your nonprofit causes, your “Like” button, conversations we have on your platform, some good pictures and updates our friends post, and your new Gifts program that will allow us to send gifts to our friends using your service sounds great. What would you do differently starting today if you knew what you would become? [Video stops].
Me: Facebook, seems to me the public perception of you clashes with both your mission and your ambitions. Your mission makes you sound like a nonprofit organization, does this mean you feel that you have certain social obligations and responsibilities even as you go and make even more money providing us a place to gather, like everyone else in the room here today? What say you, Twitter? Instagram?
[Facebook and Instagram holding hands. Instagram lights up, changes up several filters, going from black and white to colour to sepia. Everybody in the room swoons and aahhs. Meanwhile, Facebook turns to the camera to respond.]
Facebook: I agree that we are a brand with ambition. I will be honest with you. We are going Everywhere. We want to hack the world. We want to hack your world and be the air you breath. We want to be transformational. We are transformational. We will ID everyone on the web, catalogue your thoughts, manage your conversations, track your relationships the way no surveillance agency ever could. We will invade your mind, and you will let us. But we must be careful not to let our power overwhelm us, or else someone might take it away.
[Facebook eyes Google, Twitter, Instagram, then turns to the audience and smiles once more. The room is quiet. The lights slowly go out . My famous guests leave the stage in the dark. Upbeat music starts playing as the next week's show announcement comes on the air "Next week: we talk with Instagram!"]