Social Media is the New Word of Mouth

The best form of advertising is word of mouth, and the new word of mouth is social media. The aim of social media companies is to make their users spend more time on their platforms in order to generate more ad revenue. The more time people spend online, the less time they spend with other people in person, which means less time for physical “word of mouth” interactions. Today, people have more interactions with other people on the internet than in real life, making social media the new “word of mouth”. (This was true before the Covid-19 pandemic which only compounded this effect further.)

Social media is where people share their thoughts, opinions, reviews, and recommendations for products, services, and entertainment with other people. What would you trust more: an ad from a company about their product, or a review about the product from an unbiased customer? On social media, you have access to millions of reviews from customers around the world, making it the best form of advertising–and the company gets that advertising for free.

Any time anyone posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, Snapchat, YouTube, Reddit, Yelp, or any other app or website to recommend or review a product or service, they are providing free advertising. Both the social media company and the company recommended benefit financially from the user’s review. But what about the user? Shouldn’t they get a share of the profits? Some people manage to profit from recommendations through affiliate links, but that hasn’t spread to the average internet user on social media.

As AI and automation replace more and more human jobs, the big tech companies get more wealth, and people have more time to spend on social media, which in turn profits big tech further. But the only reason the big tech companies are so rich and powerful is because their users spend so much time using their services. Any online service that is free to use is actually not free. You are paying by giving the company your personal data, which is actually more valuable than the service they are providing. Without the users and their data, the tech companies would go bankrupt.

It only seems fair that users should get a share of the profits that they are helping to create. If users give a company their data, the user should get a cut of any profits that data produces. For instance, social media companies should pay users for leaving good comments or being a productive user of the service. If somebody buys a product because of a positive review they read online, the reviewer should get a small cut of the profit.

These would not be large sums of money but micropayments, made possible through cryptocurrency, which can add up over time. Some services such as the Brave browser are already starting to do this with the Basic Attention Token (BAT), and that trend will only grow and become more widespread in the future. AI will take human jobs, but humans will get paid by the AI (social media or other web service) for leasing their data. After all, without human data there is no AI.

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