Many Facebook users have expressed discontent and alarm at the recent news stating that approximately 700,000 users were part of a secret social experiment back in 2012. Over a year after the study was begun, Facebook users seem conflicted about what they may or may not have participated in. The study required administrators to comb through users’ Newsfeed pages and slightly tweak which posts and status updated made by other were most often displayed on the page — either posts with positive messages were included more often, or posts with negative messages were increased. After the adjustment, researchers examined the types of posts made by users, to see if the users exposed to certain types of updates would be more likely to respond by posting updates of a similar nature.
Rather than being interested in the results, Facebook users are more interested in the ethics behind the research, and many critics have even gone as far as saying that the users exposed to negative posts may have experienced serious psychological harm.
From a marketing standpoint, this particular experiment is quite interesting: on one hand, it brought Facebook’s name into a huge public discussion, and did so at a time when social media giants Twitter and Instagram are becoming more popular than Facebook — bad press is still press, right? It’s impossible to get people interested in a brand when they don’t even know the name. But on the other hand, this move seemed to violate users’ trust, even though the experiment was technically conducted without violating the Facebook User Agreement. Many people are wondering, however, if this experiment will end up hurting Facebook’s empire in the long run.
At what point does bad press become truly harmful to a company? Or, like the slogan states, is bad press still considered good press today, since it gets a company’s name and product out there? Bad press may have unintentionally good results for companies that offer products which no other company offers, but it seems that a company with strong competitors may not be able to afford bad press. Whatever the case may be, we’re sure to find out soon enough.