It is a great rule of thumb for poker, but also for most things in life. I take a similar approach to businesses, I try to figure out how they are making money or why they are offering a deal. In some cases it makes sense, like when a car dealer has to lower prices on the 2012 models, because they need to make space for the 2013 models that need to be showcased. I understand their reasoning for lowering the price and trying to move more 2012 cars. Or when the waiter is really pushing the steak, I know that the restaurant might have ordered to much steak and needs to sell more of it that night. This works out great for everyone if you are in the mood for steak.
Where I get nervous is when I am offered a deal and can’t figure out how the company is going to make money off it. Or when there is a company, usually online, that is offering a ton of features for no cost to me. (Think Google Docs) Going back to the Matt Damon quote, if I can’t figure out how they are making money, they are probably doing it somehow that I may not like.
This is good thinking for the classroom, because we are all now trying to find ways to use social media in the classroom, but we need to be careful that social media isn’t using our classroom unwillingly to make a profit. Twitter for example is a fantastic tool and comes at no cost to the average user. But it is important to know that it makes money from promoted Tweets.
On the surface that doesn’t seem to be a big deal, but it becomes an issue when you can’t tell the promoted Tweets from the real ones. If your students don’t know that there are paid for ads and promoted Tweets on Twitter, they are susceptible to ads and commercial influences without their knowledge.
Not picking on Twitter, but many people also don’t know that many celebrities make a good living off selling their Tweets. Kim Kardashian, for example, gets paid upwards of $10,000 for a Tweeting for companies. The trouble with this is that most people believe that when Kim tweets about her shoes, it is because she likes them, not because she is being paid to say it.
We all understand a paid endorsement during a commercial and understand that Michael Jordan may not personally love Nike shoes, but lends his name to the brand. But social media has a different context, and Twitter leads you believe that you are actually hearing from the celebrity or athlete themselves, so an endorsement of a product has a lot more value. It is much more like a recommendation from a friend, than from an ad. Allowing companies to blur that line without our students knowing the truth is a bad path to go down.
Here is a fantastic site that will show you how most of the major social media players make their money. I think it is something that you should share with all your students before bringing social media into your classroom.