With all the recent scandals about how your personal likes, clicks, shares, and the groups you’ve joined are being used as products for sale to advertisers, political activists, and even foreign agents, are you finally ready to pay for social networking? “Well, shouldn’t that be free?” you may ask. “It always has been free. Why should I start paying now?”

One question is, how would a “free” social network support itself without income? This is the question social networks have been wrestling with since their inception. The answer is simple, they can’t! What we have today is income models that basically use you and the records of your activities as the product. And who are the paying customers? Anyone who will pay for that information and access to you, of course.

No big surprise there. For decades, even before social media, our snail mailboxes were stuffed with junk mail. The junk mail senders were using information about us from public records and purchasing histories to know how to zero in on us. With social media, we have, in effect, made our choices public and they can be mined and analyzed to tailor ads catering not only to our buying patterns, but to our specific ideological patterns and tendencies. Now they’re really  zeroing in on us. This is very valuable data!

It seemed okay and quite innocent when the commercial marketeers hit us with ads seconds after we made a purchase. It was commercial, they were selling stuff, and that’s just part of business, we thought. But now it’s clear that anyone could buy the data and use it for whatever sinister purposes they want. They can interfere with our elections, undermine our institutions, exacerbate our political divisions, vilify those we oppose, and validate our suspicions – no matter which “side” we are on!

“Divide and conquer” is an ancient and classic war strategy. It is being used effectively today by the weaponization of the social media. You voluntarily provide the data that makes you vulnerable. It gets sold to the groups who use that data to manipulate you and others.

There’s talk today about regulating social media. These regulations would presumably make it harder to sell sensitive data, post hateful comments, disseminate false news, and proliferate political messages. But they would apparently leave in place the sale of personal data for commercial uses. At this point social media platforms want to protect their source of income while appearing to reduce the abuse of this data for political reasons.

Because the service would still be “free,” the proponents expect wide ranging support. But it will be almost impossible for the platforms to prevent political abuse while allowing commercial access to your data.

So, we ask again, would you pay a monthly or annual fee for a social networking service that used your fees as their income stream and not the sale of your data? Proponents of this idea say that fees would be minimal to support the platform and provide the services you now enjoy for “free.” And your data would be private!

Imagine a platform where you are not solicited either commercially or politically. Imagine a platform where your choices and data history were not for sale. In other words, imagine a platform where you are the customer and not the product! What is that worth to you?

With the next scandal just around the corner, this “preposterous” idea of paying for something we now get for free may become practical, feasible, and even desirable. At some point, you might prefer being the customer rather than the product! This may be a disruption whose time is rapidly approaching. After all, there is no “free” lunch!



Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact sales@thebarefootspirit.com.