The line between online manipulation and persuasion is very thin, and marketers know how to get their propaganda traction, and persuade customers. All companies are in the business of attracting customers and using strategies to ensure people buy their products and services. That is the entire point of marketing, but lots of companies are employing online manipulation tactics as well. The internet is a weird place, and it seems that everyone has accepted that it is the way things are going to be.
The Facebook Controversy
Facebook, is undeniably the largest social media platform on the internet, but even that hasn’t stopped them from avoiding controversy. It started when Facebook deliberately manipulated content shown to over 600,000 users to test if they can change their emotional state. They did this by posting negative or positive things on the newsfeeds of people and then analyzed the future postings of these people. The result was that Facebook could easily manipulate emotions of users.
It was obvious that people weren’t going to take kindly to learning that they were manipulated by Facebook, and there was massive blowback. Even though people had given permission to Facebook to do it, there was still shock that they would emotional manipulation on such a large-scale.
What is “Skinner Box Marketing”?
If you studied B.F. Skinner in psychology 101, you will know that he was always conducting strange studies, which revolved around ‘operant conditioning’. Most marketers today are claiming that we have entered Skinnerian Marketing, as all applications made today use maps, location, big data, and track the data streams and interests of a browser. This is an era where marketers have unprecedented power simply because they have access to so much information.
The most concerning part about all this is that these marketers aren’t appealing to the desires of users, but are programming their behaviors.
Digital Market Manipulation
Once you acknowledge the rise of Skinner Box Marketing, you will quickly realize that there is digital market manipulation all over the internet. The theory of market manipulation is based on evidence that people don’t behave in their best interests rationally, and that is where digital marketing manipulation helps them find what they want.
The emergence of new marketing techniques and technologies will make it even easier for companies in the future to exploit the vulnerability or irrationality of consumers because the internet makes it easier to exploit emotions and manipulate actions on a personal level.