Facebook’s Social Ads & Privacy

A rather big discussion erupted on using Facebook members’ names and pictures for making ‘social ads’. You read things like:

Daniel Solove, an associate professor of law at George Washington University law school, blogged that Facebook “might be assuming that if a person talks about a product, then he or she consents to being used as an advertisement for it. It is wrong to assume that just because a user visits a Web site or rates a product highly or speaks well of a product that the user wants to be featured in an ad.”

Now to put it quite simply, this guy doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. Sure, he understands laws and surely he understands at least a little about the internet… However, times are changing, marketing is changing and he doesn’t get the concept that Facebook’s using.

Basically it’s a type of viral marketing, using the functionality of a Web 2.0 application. These ads should not be seen as any traditional ad we know. It links a user’s action to a product, but does not claim the user endorses the product. You see this a lot in blogs right now, where writers give their honest opinions about products. They may be very critical about it, but they will often offer affiliate links for all the skeptics.

Now my point is, the ads will most likely pop up in users’ news feeds as:

* Bas reviewed product X.
or
* Bas purchased product X.

This does not mean anything. Other users now have the opportunity to contact me to see what I think about the product, or read the review. In other words, if an advertiser doesn’t offer value, he will not make sales. This is the new marketing.

Showing these ads does not mean you endorse the product, it means exactly what they say; that you either reviewed or purchased the product. Nothing more, nothing less. And if Facebook can earn a little money from that, why not. Let’s not make an overcomplicated system with requests for endorsements everywhere, when it really isn’t necessary.

And hey, if a review inspires friends to give a product a chance, why not. It’s what we do anyway. When we see our friends walking around with certain products, we buy them (*cough* iPod *cough*). When we buy something from a shop, the vehicle for carrying it (usually a plastic bag) is an ad for the shop. You’re now advertising for the shop, only because you bought one product.

Let’s just stop being so scared and get ready for a transition, the old types of marketing stopped working – long ago. We’re finally recognizing this and now we have the opportunity to get some genuine recommendations, not from marketeers, but from our friends and family. This is both good for the consumer, as well as for the sellers of products who offer value. Bad value products; your best days are over.

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