November 09, 2007

I'm right behind Umair on the mind-boggling evil dumbness of Facebook's advertising play.

I was a fan of Facebook, of both their intelligence and ambition, but no more. The problem is that Facebook really had something, a potential, that I believe few other commentators understood. It seemed like Mark Zuckerberg had grasped something that eluded the minds of some of the smartest observers around. Now it looks like he didn't really "get it" either. Maybe he was just lucky? Because the new FB advertising platform is going to abuse the enormous power it has. Whether it breaks apart as millions of users flee the deluge of spam or just congeals into a large glob of sticky gunk around the consumtariat, Facebook is blown.

Huh? Confused? Let me put it this way ....

Hey! Kids! Make Pepsi your friend and win FREE Ringtones!!!

Or whatever ... brands have a myriad of incentives to get someone in your social network to sign them up as a friend. Think they won't do it? Think again ...

Think the kids you know will have integrity enough to resist? Maybe the price has to be a bit higher. But you get the idea. If friendships have value to predatory brands then they'll be scheming to get them.

What all this reminds me of is those sites, back in the day, that used to require you to give your credit-card details in return for a short-term trial; and would then kept charging you a bit every month, in the hope that you either didn't notice, or found it too much trouble to jump through the hoops of cancellation.

Brands are going to sign up your friends in a burst of naive enthusiasm or by using shameless bribery, and will then send out a slurry of low-level spam, keeping it just low-profile enough (compared to everyone else's spam) to not irritate people into actively cutting their connections. (Although the best thing from the brand's point of view, would be to get their hooks into highly connected people, and then drive drive them away from Facebook altogether, leaving their accounts as little zombie beacons, broadcasting nothing on the newsfeed but the brand's message.)

Update : Bonus evil

Update 2 : BTW, there's only one brand I "love" enough to pimp for free to my social network. And it's intimately connected with the Caps-Lock key ... ;-)
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