Facebook Follies – your tax dollars at work

Now that phone books are obsolete, where do you turn for information on a federal government department or service?
Good question.
In the two-year period between January 2016 and March 1018, the federal government spent more than $24.4 million on Facebook, Google and Instagram ads.
The alleged purpose of this spending spree was to inform Canadians about stuff they needed to know.
Odd are, you didn’t see any of those ads, even if you’re on Facebook 24 hours a day and you rely on Instagram and Snapchat for all your breaking news.
Because you breezed right over them as you scrolled down your phone checking out funny cat videos.
Ads on social media like Facebook and Instagram are fleeting things. They’re invisible and ignored.
And, in the unlikely event they are noticed, they’re not trusted, because the social media source itself is not trusted.
There’s an old saying: people love gossip, but they hate gossipers.
The stuff on social media is juicy, but how can you be sure it’s legit?
In the case of Facebook itself, that position of non-trust is well-earned. In early April, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg admitted that his company compromised the personal data of 87 million people around the world. That includes 620,000 Canadians whose data was improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica through apps used by themselves or their friends.
Ironically, during the 2016-17 period, when Facebook’s data-farming operation was in full swing, the federal government in Ottawa was cranking up its spending to keep that cyber-shady machine rolling. Over those two years, the federal government spent more on digital advertising than on television, for the first time ever. Digital media, according to a Canadian Press report, represented 54.7 per cent of all advertising expenditures in 2017, with social media representing 23.3 per cent of that.
In its defense, the federal government says 20 million Canadians are on social media, and that it needs to reach people where they are.
“More and more Canadians are receiving their news and information via social networks,” Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is reported saying in a May 22, 2018 CP story. “It is important to connect with Canadians on the channels they are using.”
I’m not sure the federal government is connecting with its constituents, but I am sure it’s connecting with Mark Zuckerberg’s bank account. Our tax dollars are hard at work trekking across the border to Facebook headquarters.
Meanwhile, legitimate, trusted, media outlets (which actually go out and gather real news, not just aggregate stories from elsewhere) in Canada are feeling the pinch. It doesn’t make sense for the government to be using taxpayer dollars to support foreign-owned digital companies like Facebook, Google and Instagram.
Print news media, particularly community newspapers, have a far greater reach and higher trust level among the public than social media companies.
A recent study by AdWest Marketing confirms that community newspapers are the most widely-consumed and preferred media by people living in non-urban communities in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Almost 80 per cent of respondents to the AdWest Marketing study said they’d either read or looked into a printed community newspaper in the last week. The study also found that 79 per cent of respondents said the news and advertising content of printed community newspapers was trusted.
At the same time, most respondents (57%) classified social media websites as “untrustworthy”. They are wary of clicking on ads on social media for fear of being inundated with still more ads, or else they have concerns about downloading viruses or malware, or getting sucked into a scam of some sort.
For those who get their information online, most prefer community newspaper websites; again, because they’re trusted.