Facebook and the MicroSocial Spamfriends Application

Hey Facebook, something's about to go wrong again...I put the Beacon fiasco down to charming youthful inexperience and sang your praises when you publicly apologized for the mistake, however, I don't think I am going to be so forgiving this time with what is going on on the Facebook platform.

This morning I read the Tech Crunch Report Ads-Click Introduces MicroSocialAds In Beta. Now Get Paid to Spam Your Friends on Facebook. In summary a Microsocial Ad is a 35 character line of text that appears on a Facebook newsfeed. As a Facebook user, I can place those ad's myself and when one of my network clicks on the ad, I will get 80% of the revenue.

I must admit, the novelty of Facebook is wearing off and is getting more tarnished as it takes on the role of highly intrusive billboard. The concept of Microsocial Ads is like having a conversation with your friend and finding out that all the clothes they wear, all the items they have are sponsored and that the things they say to you are crafted statements to get you to buy the products - and that your friend's relationship with you is funded by the manufacturers. Remember Truman Burbank in the Truman Show?

BBQ Ad Invasion

What sort of sick society has this become? Ads-Click claim to be "a Global Multichannel ads trading company with more than 5859 Publishers and over 5 billion page views per month" - shame on you.

Finding the Balance between Privacy and Targeted Advertising

Is this really where we want it to go? I don't believe so and I think my concern is shared by a number of others including the folks at Wharton. In their article Who Owns You? Finding a Balance between Online Privacy and Targeted Advertising they discuss evolution of online advertising. Google and Amazon.com track customer behavior in an effort to better tailor products, advertising and services. The more info you have on consumers the better the targeting, the Facebook Beacon debacle and recovery

The article goes on: "The big issue is finding that balance, preferably at a point that satisfies both consumers and marketers and suggests that the key to online ad targeting is transparency. Companies need to be clear about what they are doing with customer information and provide easy opt-out and opt-in procedures."

Furthermore, "on the corporate side of the equation, marketers have to be sensitive to privacy issues and "do what users consider reasonable, companies are trying to be sensitive, yet trying to know their customers."

It concludes with "Given the dollars at stake (global Internet advertising to be $60.88 billion in 2010) companies are racing to figure out the privacy vs. better targeting equation. There are complicated questions to be addressed. This data is really the story of you. Who owns your information? Why give up ownership of your story? Are you opening yourself up too much? These are deeply philosophical questions that don't get answered overnight."

What next? My prediction

There is already tremendous outcry about MicroSocial Ads - see the comments listing on the TechCrunch board and Shel Israel's blog. The Responsible Marketing Blog sums the whole thing up beautifully in its pithy posting My friend, the spammer.

However, I can see that this will have a beautiful way of self-regulating its way back to a sensible solution. I see it going this way - Ads-Click launches in Facebook. The Facebook privacy advocacy groups protest. It makes the news. Kids work out that they can make money by clicking madly on links they exchange with their friends. Ads Click advertisers work out that the clicks they are paying for are worthless. The revenue opportunity dries up until someone works out what a valuable click is.

If this model actually works - then Agloco and Boxbe should be making a lot more money than they are today. I don't see any of this as being a long term solution for advertisers or individuals, but I did sign up to be an Ads-Click MicroSocialAds beta tester

Bibliography

  1. Ads-Click Introduces MicroSocialAds In Beta. Now Get Paid to Spam Your Friends on Facebook at TechCrunch (December 17 2007)
  2. Who Owns You? Finding a Balance between Online Privacy and Targeted Advertising at Knowledge@Wharton (December 12, 2007)
  3. Facebook Revenue Ideas sinking from Awful to Worse on Shel Israel's blog (December 17, 2007).
  4. So, is your Facebook page really yours? by Ouriel Ohayon, an AdsClick board member
  5. The Truman Show

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