Wednesday, November 07, 2007

How Facebook's Social Ads system is evil and what you can do about it

The Social Ads-Social Graph-Facebook nonsense rolls on and on. At the Facebook Social Advertising Event in New York City, Steve Jobs-wannabe Mark Zuckerberg again tried to justify absurdity with some rather suave statements.

We heard some real gems from the new Pied Piper of Social Media:

"Nothing influences a person more than the recommendation of a trusted friend,"

"Once every hundred years media changes."

Even the New York Times, which has become a Facebook Fan of late, has given objectivity a boot, and now parrots the “Any social innovation that only Facebook is fit to bring” party line.

The Times says this about the new Social Ads system:

"Facebook now will give advertisers the ability to create their own profile pages on its system that will let users identify themselves as fans of a product.

But, the User as Brand Fan is not new.
Google introduced a similar (and patented) user-led Ad Recommending system/user-to-user advertising system some time back.

In Mark Zuckerbeg’s world, and Nick Carr has noted this brilliantly, 'Media and advertising are synonymous.'

Nick explains,
‘Editorial is advertorial. The medium is the message from our sponsor.’

In Mark Zuckerbeg’s world, ‘Marketing is conversational... and advertising is social.’

But alas, Mark is not new to jump to this sort of idiotic phraseology.
Some months back, if you remember the Spokesbloggers scandal, John Battelle tried to pass the ‘Marketing is Conversation’ shtick when Microsoft paid many top bloggers to carry puff pieces about Microsoft product.

So, it comes to pass that Facebook the Pied Piper and the social rats have decided that today’s generation of 18 year old, who don’t know who Bob Dole was and who use the mobile like Engineers use drawing pencils are the stupidest ones around.

They know for sure that the kids are totally okay with trusting Facebbok with all their data, which Facebook will duly sell to advertisers, who in turn will bombard them with ads.

It sure is a swell deal, and instantly joins the ranks of 500 channels, customization, personalization, portals and assorted other fantasies of these 15-odd years of the web.

Some note on the Social Ads nonsense:

1. Stop adding the ‘social’ prefix to every other word
(and while we are that, I hope we also stopped adding “Open” before every other word, Google, take note)

2. Social Ads System is just another name for a Behavioral Targeting System and is doing it for a while now.

3. Segmentation of audiences based on profile data can bring a too narrow data for advertisers and may not be worth all that trouble. Google Adsense does a better job with the long tail and will have a wider reach.

4. Is there such a beast called Brand Enthusiast?
When I could afford, I started wearing Levi’s because I wanted to be cool among my friends, none of whom wore Levi’s.

It may sound cussed but I did not want to be the same as everyone else and I am sure you would be thinking the same.

Maybe, a brand enthusiast is another name for ‘paid blogger/paid focus group member/give- me- money- to- watch- type -unemployed guy/PR intern’ and other variants.

5. Social Ads system will be the new spam:
it will clutter users’ profile pages and inboxes with ads - banners, buttons, advertiser communities, homepage takeovers, brand wraps, TV shows in form of advertorials and assorted other hoohahs.

6. Facebook’s Hotmail problem:
Also known as Ad Blindness Problem. Seth Godin writes, “When someone goes to FaceBook, they're not looking for stuff. They're looking for people. But people don't buy ads, stuff does.”

If you didn't know Seth wrote the book on Permission Marketing, and Facebook's Social Ads system blows the whole idea to bits.

7. There is no more Privacy on Facebook:
And by association on all sites that Facebook partners for its Social ads system.
For example, Facebook will monitor what you buy on Amazon and then spam you to death.

By the way, take it for granted that Facebook employees, right from the janitor up to Mark Zuckerberg is looking at your profile and your activity.

Unlike Google, Facebook is not heavy with faceless bots so far.

8. You can’t opt out of all the ensuing spam:
A least, Hotmail and all other free service providers had this facility. Is this a coding problem with an outfit that has its own developer platform?

So, What can the user do?
Early signs are that the new Social Ads system will make the same mistakes Google’s Adsense does, and mistargeted advertising will be a common excuse from advertisers caught spamming.

However the social networking addicts can use the Adblock plugin to block all ads coming from whatever domain Facebook uses.

If ads still filter through, the ‘new college generation’ of today can do what generations have done before with intrusive advertising: Ignore them.

Update: Umair has written a brilliant strategy note on Facebook's Social ads and has this ti say about Facebook's partner brands:

on the whole, not exactly brands consumers luv

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At 5:58 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Social Ads Idea is clever, very clever. But it’s not true word of mouth. Here’s why

In my book WoM is when the person makes the recommendation for a brand in his/her own words (this is why it is authentic and credible) and NOT when they get used as a carrier pigeon to deliver the brands message.

In FaceBook’s model people’s profiles are simply being co-opted to carry the brands advertising. It’s simply a clever way for brands to put their advert on your FaceBook profile

But – the advertisers with love it as it “seems like Word of Mouth” and YET they still get to control the message – and thus FaceBook will make lots more money.

Is it a clever new way to advertise– yes.
Is it a good idea for brands to advertise this way – yes.
But, don’t see this as real word of mouth – my profile carrying your ad is not as effective as me telling my friends in my own words how good your product is.

Net net – do both, they work hand in had.

At 12:33 PM , Blogger Pramit Singh said...

I agree Ian.

The merits of Facebook's new ad system pale in comparison to the forcing ads on unsuspecting users who trusted Facebook with their data, while taking away most control, is a bigger issue.

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