U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called on Zuckerberg to testify about Instagram’s impact on teenagers. Maybe they should change Instagram’s name while they’re at it.
In retrospect, it seemed like God was jumping on the bandwagon when the Oct. 4 Facebook outage struck just as Head of Global Safety Antigone Davis was defending company actions on CNBC. Forget about changing the name. If that was me, I would have gone into the witness protection program, changed my name and moved to a remote Albanian village.
Like the way Google suddenly became a subsidiary of Alphabet in 2015, Facebook could even create a holding company called Holy Mother Superior Thou Art in Heaven, but a damaged brand is a damaged brand. Back in March, Facebook tied with TikTok as the tech giant Americans trusted least. Could you imagine if that survey were repeated now?
I’ve heard all the jokes about what Facebook should rename itself—but that route would be merely cosmetic. The very DNA of the Facebook brand has to change before Capitol Hill, angry parents and founding employees and investors show up at 1 Hacker Way with pitchforks and kerosene lamps.
Here are three possible branding paths Facebook may consider to lift its reputation:
Become a purpose-driven brand
To stop problems before they begin, Facebook would have to move its morality compass closer to the younger generations it covets so much. That means genuinely morphing into a brand with purpose, such as Ben & Jerry and REI.
Facebook recruits a group of individuals known for their wisdom, integrity and admiration to join its board, take senior advisory positions and steer the company into truly benefiting the world. Enlist MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” recipients or TED speakers such as Aboriginal writer and former model Sasha Sarago or professor and best-selling “Daring Greatly” author Brené Brown.
Erect a paywall, drop the advertising and become a premium media product
Despite Zuckerberg denying Facebook is a media company to Congress in April, its algorithms decide what news and videos the world sees on its feeds. That smells like a media company to me. Why doesn’t it just come clean and model itself after one?
As long as the bar to entry is zero and Facebook is supported by ads, controversy will hound every moment of its existence.
The solution is swapping the ads for a paywall, while transforming to a full-fledged media company focusing on friends and family, groups and live events and chats. Instead of begging for controversy with outside content providers from across the political spectrum, the site hires its own editorial staff led by award-winning journalists.
It would be like merging a current media business model like Business Insider or The Wall Street Journal with a community-focused social network.
Become an actual technology company
In April 2018, Mark Zuckerberg told Congress: “I consider us to be a technology company.” The media pushed back, saying he didn’t determine what Facebook is, and it all went downhill from there. The debate could stop altogether if Facebook spun off its social network (including Instagram) to a responsible group and walked the walk as the technology company Zuckerberg says they are.
That leaves the new company to focus on its Oculus virtual reality headsets, augmented reality studio Spark AR and whatever little metaverse hardware dreams Zuck wants to pursue—with a new name, of course.
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