Social networks usually have a simple business plan: Acquire as much active users as possible who they can be served with ads from advertisers who sign up to reach the massive audience The major social networks that we have do that: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram do that effectively and it is their major source of income.
This has led to the school of thought that says that the ‘user is the product’ since without the user, these social networking sites wouldn’t have anyone to serve ads to. Facebook is the biggest social network so far with over 2 billion users and surprisingly, they dispute the fact that users are the product.
From a post in their ongoing Hard Questions series, Facebook seeked to answer one of the questions they frequently hear about their advertising practices: The issue whether users are the product.
“No. Our product is social media- the ability to connect with the people that matter to you, wherever they are in the world,” Facebook said. They likened their situation with newspapers, websites or search engines where the core product is reading the news or finding information and ads are used to fund that experience.
This is an interesting take by the company as they try to demystify how it uses your data in their operations. The fact that Facebook views itself as a newspaper where their product is the ability to connect people so that they can find information and read news was a surprise and we wonder how other social networking companies also view users.