I’m sure a lot of people wonder why Facebook is suddenly pushing out these kind of monetizing things that so blatantly disrespect the end user’s privacy and control, like yesterday’s “Sponsored Stories” whereby Facebook steals your posting contents, sells it, and then uses it to advertise to your friends list directly. It obviously alienates the user base, enough that Facebook has even postponed some new features after they’ve been announced – for example, last week’s debacle of making your address and mobile phone number available to apps.
Well, a week ago Facebook raised $1 billion from investors in a deal arranged by Goldman Sachs. (that alone raises my eyebrows to begin with, as GS is not exactly a paragon of virtue) I’m sure those investors had to be persuaded somehow that there would be good return on investment, and that persuasion seems to have been “squeeze the users for all they’ve got to pull marketing & advertising tools out of them.” And so we have a whole new stepping up of monetization that are making Facebook’s previous questionable tactics violating user privacy and content seem positively in the public interest.
Nonetheless, things like Facebook’s “Sponsored Stories” are going to make a ton of money in the short term from advertisers using the younger, trendy, brand-identifying crowd, I’m sure. Reactions in that group like “SQUEAL! ZOMG ZOMG ZOMG! My post about Muffy’s bulemia accident in Starbux got on one of their ADS!!!! SQUEEEEEEEEE!!!!” are going to abound.
However, Facebook should take a look around to see where that kind of social data mining can get you. There’s enough grumbling as it is about Google and it’s AdWords advertising; at least in that situation people’s own content isn’t being explicitly hijacked, resold and then flung back in their faces as ad copy. I can’t see regular, steady users reacting well to to Facebook’s latest strategies and disrespect for their own users – it’s just no way to build long-term loyalty and a stable user base. They need keep in mind that while the trendy crowd’s attention is cash on the barrel head while they’ve got it, it’s also those same people who are also always looking for the next best thing. Remember Geocities, Facebook? No? Huh, me either. What about… MySpace? Oh yah, a faint bell there for me too. Whatever happened to them, anyway?