Software // Social
12:00 AM
Connect Directly
The Analytics Job and Salary Outlook for 2016
Jan 28, 2016
With data science and big data top-of-mind for all types of organizations, hiring analytics profes ...Read More>>

Let's Experiment On Facebook

Facebook angered lots of people with its experiments to manipulate users' moods. What might happen if 800 million users decide to return the favor?

Facebook recently caught some flack when an academic study detailed experiments to manipulate its users’ emotional states. We can argue about the ethical and behavioral implications of Facebook treating its users like lab rats, but I think a better response would be to return the favor.

With approximately 802 million daily active users, there’s enough of us to turn the tables and start experimenting on Facebook. Here’s a few suggestions.

Individualized Emotional Contagion

The researchers found evidence that “emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion.” The initial study comprised 689,003 subjects.

An interesting follow-up would be to measure emotional transference on a single individual. Will Mark Zuckerberg experience “emotional contagion” if 689,003 people post rude things about him on Facebook every day for a week?

As a user of the site, Mr. Zuckerberg has agreed to the terms of service that allow him to be the subject of Facebook research, so I think we’re ethically in the clear here.

Garbage In…

Facebook is built on ads. And it can charge a premium to advertisers because it gathers and analyzes data about users. This means advertisers can craft their ads to, as Facebook says, “deliver beautiful, relevant messages that help drive key business results.”

But what if the information that Facebook gathers is wrong? What would happen, for instance, if millions of people changed their birthdate to, say, July 15, 1929? Will marketers targeting the 75-to-85 year old demographic start flooding Facebook with ads for walk-in tubs and denture creams? And how long would it take for those advertisers to realize how utterly ineffective those ads are?

Bear Market

We don’t have to limit our experiments to social sciences. There are lots of interesting research avenues in fields such as economics. For instance, what effect would it have on Facebook’s stock price if large numbers of people quit the site for something like SnapChat?

What’s cool about this experiment is that you could also tie it back into the emotional contagion experiments, as shareholders spread feelings of angst and despair amongst themselves. That’s a research win-win.

Drew is formerly editor of Network Computing and currently director of content and community for Interop. View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
User Rank: Ninja
8/1/2014 | 5:26:30 AM
Re: Other experiments?
@Drew thanks for sharing my opinion.  :)

I believe that in recent past facebook was surrounded by controversies which has definitely dented its position and profits. I think they need to be carefull in comming out with different prepositions to recapture their lost stature. The experiments like this will not help them either.
Drew Conry-Murray
Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2014 | 4:14:45 PM
Re: Other experiments?
I share those doubts too!
User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2014 | 12:29:38 PM
Re: Other experiments?
@Drew I agree iwth you there but do you think the company of facebook stature will ever be considering ethicality vs profits. I have my serious doubts.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/3/2014 | 7:10:30 PM
A little more attention, please
Flack = commentator

Flak = anti-aircraft fire

What did you really mean?
User Rank: Apprentice
7/3/2014 | 6:54:56 PM
Apple has the right idea. Safari can no longer connect to Facebook. Sigh, oh well back to the Tube.
IW Pick
User Rank: Strategist
7/3/2014 | 4:10:33 PM
marketing expeiment
There must be lots of ways to experiment with their marketing department.  How about if all 800 million of us put these shoes in our zappos shopping basket?

Drew Conry-Murray
Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Ninja
7/3/2014 | 3:41:15 PM
Other experiments?
I've suggested a few experiments we users could do. Do you have any you want to suggest? And did you think Facebook's experiment was ethical?
Social is a Business Imperative
Social is a Business Imperative
The use of social media for a host of business purposes is rising. Indeed, social is quickly moving from cutting edge to business basic. Organizations that have so far ignored social - either because they thought it was a passing fad or just didnít have the resources to properly evaluate potential use cases and products - must start giving it serious consideration.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
How to Knock Down Barriers to Effective Risk Management
Risk management today is a hodgepodge of systems, siloed approaches, and poor data collection practices. That isn't how it should be.
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.