Putting the ‘social’ back into social media: moving away from data capture through healthy business models

Building a business model that moves away from data capture as a source of profit is key to protecting young people’s data online, according to Sacha Lazimi CEO and Co-Founder at Yubo.

With Gen Z spending over 10 hours daily engaging with online content, young people are the first generation to grow up with technology at their fingertips. Research has long proven that children trust their online environments, and while they are aware of commercial business models, they are particularly susceptible to their marketing messages and tactics.

Though a large part of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is focused on protecting young people, companies must also play their part in building businesses that move away from data capture as a key source of profit. Celebrating the true essence of being young by enabling a new generation to learn about the world and themselves, should be at the core of new, healthy business models. This means no ads, targeting or selling user data to third parties.

The shift to social 

Young people today have become more social media literate than any generation before them. As a result, the effects of data protection online have become evident.

We’re seeing a shift in young people’s priorities, and social apps like Yubo have gained momentum due to the focus on real and authentic interactions instead of performance. When building the platform, we balanced the need for protection and authenticity by embedding ‘privacy by design’ at the heart of the engineering process and business as a whole. This means the user experience revolves solely around socialising – a much-needed activity following the pandemic, which saw 35% of young people in the UK feel lonely and led to a 550% increase in growth on Yubo.

By not selling data to advertisers and removing ads from the platform, our goal was to give users the best experience without distractions that tend only to serve the company’s bottom line. Users are able to be themselves and it removes any concern that they – and their own personal information – are the product being sold.

There’s no data tracking in the playground

By mimicking the in-person experience as much as possible, which also means ensuring young people’s data is not aggregated, businesses can protect a child’s right to self-expression, moral autonomy and non-discrimination.

In the UK, 4 out of 10 products used by students can potentially deliver targeted ads to users based on their personal data. This removes agency from communities looking to bond via online social networks.

But to create an in-app culture of privacy, there must be the conditions for it. In Yubo’s case, the platform was inspired by gaming culture. We’ve found that gamifying the user experience – but without likes or followers – can help create that seamless transition.

For example, users can pay for YuBucks, our in-app currency, to access features such as Boosts, which increase the visibility of live streams to gain more participants. Having in-app features catered to your audience’s interests is critical to not only creating a social media platform of connections rather than revenue, but to establishing a healthy and respectful business model.

Today, privacy is empowering

By empowering users to be themselves, with the support of strict privacy measures, healthy businesses can create spaces which build self-esteem.

Ofcom’s recent report stated that 90% of 8-15-year-olds feel that using social media made them feel happy. This contrasts parental concerns, with 57% of UK parents worried about how companies collect information about their children.

What’s more, being publicly traded has an impact on social media incumbents ability to pivot. Those operating a privately held company enjoys the flexibility not available to others – removing the heavy presence of advertising and pivoting to a ‘freemium’ model.

Transparency at the core of healthy businesses 

While the steps companies can take towards building a healthy business are evident in the short term, the future remains uncertain. But what remains clear is that trust and privacy will continue to go hand-in-hand.

For processing to be fair, there is the same need for transparency. Multiple studies have already proved that terms and conditions are often too long and difficult for young users to understand. Using the guidance of safety boards and investors, companies can leverage internal resources to make enhancements based on user feedback. For example, hiring privacy specialists to ensure that data sharing rules are accessible and comprehensible to all users on the platform. This starts by placing users at the heart of the business and using language children can understand, creating the delicate balance between trust and privacy.

The goal of healthy businesses should be to create an environment where it’s as safe and as easy as possible for Gen Z to be themselves, just as they would in the physical world. While the GDPR does much to protect young people’s data privacy, companies have an obligation to create positive environments where young people do not need to worry about their data being sold.

By incorporating privacy into the very infrastructure of social platforms and other applications – removing ads, gamifying the experience and making regulation transparent – companies can help protect a generation for whom socialising online is no different to socialising offline.

We’re seeing a shift in the social media landscape toward the demand for the ‘social’ part of social media. Returning to the basics of connection and authenticity instead of consumption and marketing will help achieve this.

About the Author

Sacha Lazimi is CEO and Co-Founder at Yubo. Yubo is a social live-streaming platform that celebrates the true essence of being young. We inspire a newgeneration to be themselves.

Featured image: ©Gajus