Can Facebook emotionally manipulate customer service?


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The emotional manipulation factor has been all abuzz this past week after the published results of a January 2012 subliminal study by Facebook was revealed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In case you haven’t heard about it, or rather if the study was condoned by anyone in the field of ethical behaviors and studies, Cornell University and Facebook manipulated the thoughts of 700,000 Facebook users.

So what did they do? In a week long “social experiment,” the News Feed content was changed. Some Facebook users were presented with happy and positive content and words, while others were saturated with sadder content and words. Then researchers measured whether the status updates of the experimental users were affected by either the happy or sad news they received. Indeed it did, and showed more negative reactions to the negative news and of course, the opposite with happier news and more positive posts.

One of the researchers did step forward this week to offer the following explanation:

The research was conducted for a single week in 2012 and none of the data used was associated with a specific person’s Facebook account. We do research to improve our services and to make the content people see on Facebook relevant and engaging as possible. A big part of this is understanding how people respond to different types of content, whether it’s positive or negative in tone, news from friends, or information from pages they follow. We carefully consider what research we do and have a strong internal review process. There is no unnecessary collection of people’s data in connection with these research initiatives and all data is stored securely.”

In the relevant subject of customer service, and estimating that half of all consumers may have from time to time become engaged on Facebook, does it make us wonder if what we buy or how we feel about a company can be artificially manipulated? Facebook states they strive to answer the following:

  • How do we make the product better?
  • How do we better suit the needs of the people using this product?
  • How do we show them more of what they want to see?
  • How do we show them less of what they don’t want to see?

Although many people might be using Facebook to share status updates, messages, and photos, are we also being manipulated by businesses collecting our data and then using it to make us like something by skewing our reality? For instance, could Facebook, through an online “persuasion” campaign working with Abercrombie & Fitch, a clothing line that caters to the “thin and beautiful people” manipulate news feeds to mainly include all of the activities and clothes associated with being one of the “cool kids” in school; you know the cheerleaders, football players and size 2s and 4s? Include in those news feeds  safe driving and convertibles, Ivy League college photos, and everything associated with being attractive, doesn’t it make sense for us to hightail it to the nearest store as good looking people tend to hang out with other good looking people?  Possibly a message to the CEO Mike Jeffries, however is that statistics show that in the United States, 67% of the female purchasing power wears sizes 14 and above.

Beware online shoppers when using Facebook. Hopefully, the merchant contacted is ethical and uses social media to enhance his business the right way. Customers want fast service; that is they want businesses to pay attention, address their concerns, and take the time to understand the issues. Customers want businesses to own their mistakes and apologize while working with the unhappy consumer and making it right; even going farther by offering something to make up for all of the trouble.

The concept of customer service hasn’t really changed; the customer wants what they paid for, they want it to be a great product or service, and they want it when they want it. Customers don’t want to be manipulated into thinking anything else except what is best for them by their own rules.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Cheryl Hanna
Service Untitled
Cheryl Hanna is a successful real estate sales person in Florida and has used her customer service knowledge and experience to set her apart and gain a competitive edge in a very difficult market. Cheryl has been writing professionally since 1999 and writes for several blogs and online publications


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