Thursday, February 22, 2024

Facebook changes its corporate name to Meta: MSU professors react

November 29, 2021
Illustration by Daena Faustino
Illustration by Daena Faustino —

When Allison Siarto, an instructor of advertising and public relations at MSU, first heard about Facebook changing its corporate name, she knew that not much was going to change for them.

Siarto compared it to when Google also changed their corporate name to Alphabet and everybody still called it Google.

“We’ll probably still call a lot of the Facebook products 'Facebook' because that’s what we’re used to,” Siarto said.

On Oct. 28, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook will be changing its corporate name to Meta. This announcement also came with plans for a “Metaverse," where the company can move into the world of virtual reality. Zuckerberg said "metaverse" will be a world where people can game, work and communicate in a virtual environment using VR headsets.

For some people, this announcement came at an odd time, with Facebook facing backlash for allowing the spread of misinformation, leading some to believe that this was a PR stunt created in order to deflect from those controversies.

While Siarto said that this timing is just a coincidence and believes that Zuckerberg has had this idea for a long time, Professor of Advertising and Public Relations Patricia Huddleston, sees this as more of a strategic move.

Huddleston said that this is something brands will do when they are facing criticism and scrutiny, they will implement a strategy to try and change that. 

“I can understand why Facebook is pivoting at this point,” Huddleston said. “Now whether it is going to focus attention away from these negative events and negative press remains to be seen.”

Assistant professor of advertising and public relations Marisa Smith agrees with Huddleston that this was a PR move. Smith sees it as a distraction and a way to reorient the conversation from their misinformation controversies. 

While the debate remains on if this was a deliberate PR move or just a coincidence, both Siarto and Huddleston agree that this will have a positive effect on Facebook going forward.

Siarto said that Facebook has always had certain connotations associated with it and there are some people who don’t want to use the app because of those connotations. However, now that Facebook has changed its corporate name, people will be less likely to turn down the new product just because of the past name associated with it.

“If they have a new name, it does give them potential to say 'OK we have a new brand name, we’re reaching a new audience, these are people who might be more willing to give us a try for this side of things,'” Siarto said.

In terms of the actual name, Meta, it's not very popular among the three professors. Huddleston even went a step further and said that the new logo is also not well designed, even calling it very common place. Siarto said that because Meta is such a common term, it going to be much harder for them when trying to monitor their brand reputation and that she would’ve chosen something different.

“If I was coming up with a name, just because I do social media monitoring for corporate reputation, I would pick something unique that can't be confused, so that it's easy," Siarto said.

No matter how much publicity or new users they get from the new name, both Smith and Huddleston agree that the criticism received from the misinformation controversies will not go away until Facebook makes some real changes to their practices.

Smith agreed there was many things Facebook can do to be better, which included a better checks and balances system, hiring more employees to monitor everything and actually removing false information instead of just flagging it.

“I don’t think the name change is going to do anything unless Facebook actually does make changes to their policies and also make changes to how they operate,” Smith said.

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