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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Are You Really My "Friend"...?

Facebook is going to turn what you "like" into the ability to put yourself into ads.

That's right. 

According to this SF Gate article and others Facebook is going to be creating ways for turning that post about how much you "like" that restaurant into an ad for that restaurant.  Walk into a Starbucks - your phone will "check you in" and you can post about "what's up".

This kind of thing is also in the works for Twitter - with promoted Tweets.  It will provide ads in searches and ultimately as sponsored tweets.

Now these abilities create an awful lot of interesting questions.

(Obviously all of this is targeted to a much younger audience then me.  But, being young my self one, though its hard to believe, does give me some insight into how people might use these services.)

For example, during my Starbuck visit the barista dumps coffee on my shirt or makes my order incorrectly - and I'm in a bad mood to boot...  Not sure what kind of "promotion" might result if I posted or tweeted about that.

Then there is the scenario like you see in the Progessive insurance advertisements, the one where the two guys from a competing insurance company are discovered by the Progressive girl "Flo" (Stephanie Courntey) sneaking around looking for insurance because the policies their own company sells are too expensive.

So now employers will have more reasons beyond what you post or your friends post about you to fire you.

And your probation office will have a much harder time believing that you really were at work or at home with your ankle bracelet on just like you said.

And then I may like competing products or I may like to talk about the products in a positive but less than flattering light - for example talking about Joe's Coffee House at Starbucks and about Starbucks at Joe's Coffee House or I might like posting with colorful metaphors or gross sophomoric descriptions of body parts and functions.  My friends might find this funny and it might even work (even work well) as an advertisement for a product or service - but the branding police might not agree with the form of the message.

Young people are usually quite concerned with dating and the opposite sex.  So imagine the fun that might be had by folks "rating" the staff and some of these concerns, i.e., its not so much the product that I "like" on Facebook but the staff member offering it (camera anyone?).  Again one imagines how less than flattering descriptions and/or pictures might come into play about just why young males like a particular coffee shop at a particular time of day.

If I owned the coffee shop I think I might be on the way to a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Of course all of this is just speculation on what might happen if I used the Facebook ad process in a positive way. 

One can only imagine what might happened should someone maliciously use this kind of service.

While all this might seem bizarre or voyeuristic if you really think about it its really no different than anything else you might see in nature. 

For example, if you've ever watched a flock of crows you will see this exact kind of behavior.  The flock will descend on a field or garden or on some road kill - then squawking is used to call attention to whatever interesting items are uncovered.  Not much different than tweeting or posting about what you are doing an this exact moment.

And, with further thought, things like mating and finding a freshly killed carcass really do have an advertising aspect to them - usually with scent.  How else would the crows find the carcass in the first place?

Similarly for dogs, if you have more than one outside in a group they are all careful to alert others to anything interesting or suspicious they might run across.

No, I think its just sort of a basic pack-style behavior - except somehow amplified with technology.

The only difference is that with traditional dog, avian or even human pack behavior there isn't a video or written blog of what went on for lawyers to uncover as part of a lawsuit.

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