One of the early and more promising concepts of social media – the reciprocal flow of data between services – is running against increased resistance. The latest feud over user data comes from Facebook, which recently cut off access to its friends lists on apps like Twitter’s new photo-sharing Vine app. Vine users will have to find their friends without the aid of Facebook, just as Twitter users now have to tap or click on Instagram links in their timeline to view photos in a browser.
As today’s social media heavyweights gather value in data and leverage that to extract new revenue, the walled gardens of yesteryear are creeping back up to the surface. These competitive limits on the ebb and flow of social data are disrupting the user experience and impacting marketers’ ability to integrate campaigns across multiple channels.
“Facebook blocking Twitter’s Vine mobile app may disrupt the user experience, but it’s all part of the social media and competitive landscape,” noted Ted Dhanik, president of engage:BDR. “Facebook and Twitter are competitive social networks, and both sites want to be protective of their user base and advertising revenues. Facebook has very valuable data that they control and will sell for the right price to the right partner.”
Because business models came much later for Facebook and Twitter, they are adapting now and trying to compete on targeting and data, said J Barbush, VP and creative social media director at RPA Advertising.
“As history proves, the most innovative social shifts (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and potentially Vine) were designed around the user, not an ad model. Now it seems the user who wants to connect all their social profiles, may be out of luck because of the ad model,” he noted.
“They are not trying to make our social lives a more integrated ecosystem, they just want to build their own,” Barbush added, likening the alternative to Pepsi opening its customer database to Coke.
“Only when there is a clear reciprocal benefit do these services co-exist. As a user, it can be frustrating, and to an advertiser, limiting. In a universe where hashtags are meant to connect social properties, the inability for that stream to flow through Facebook has frustrated me personally for years,” noted Barbush. “As data becomes more salacious for advertisers, I believe the walled garden will get taller.”
These shifts are reminding Barbush and others that while some media companies are knocking down the walls they’ve had in place for years, others are building them up. Moreover, he added, Vine’s cool factor from a consumer perspective may not be enough for the platform to carry much weight in advertising or marketing circles.
“Finding friends through Facebook may be the least of the concerns. Vines can only be recorded through the app, and have to be shared right away. As an advertiser, that’s limiting to be so time-and-device based,” he noted. “I think an advertising model will have to come out of Vine for it to truly offer benefit. The charm is in its simplicity, and we don’t want to run spots there, but it cannot be so limiting.”