from my wall, it goes to the newsfeeds of friends who can see and even engage with my natural bit of WOMM.
Sponsored Stories would take this item that I’ve organically shared -- and sell it to Starbucks to use to promote its product or FB page. What marketer would not eat this stuff up?
But what about the users? Would you be comfortable with a company re-using your organic posts & check-ins with the intent to promote their business to your friends?
Facebook is betting that its users (-- who, like frogs in a slowly heated pot have had their privacy sensibilities worn down by the social network --) will be completely okay with this arrangement. And that, to me, is where the "Evil" part of Evil Genius comes in. Okay, maybe not quite evil -- but certainly not very respectful. I mean, it's almost as if the whole company is run by programmers with poor social skills -- individuals who don’t understand why anyone would have a guttural reaction to this. I mean, after all (as FB points out in their video on the product,) this is information you’re sharing with your friends anyway. Why would anyone care if this information could be used by advertisers without your consent? And therein lies the key point: there’s no consent here. No opportunity for me to control my privacy. And this is hardly the first time Facebook has limited my ability to control what is shared about me.
There was a time not too long ago where Facebook was making no money. A time when observers wondered how it would leverage all of this “information” and “interaction” for profit. That time is obviously over. Facebook has found a myriad of ways to profit off of user information -- and it seems to be oblivious to the possibility that it might offend our sensibilities with its actions.
Here’s the thing. Facebook was created by a kid -- in a dorm room. Now, true: since then, it has grown to be the lone behemoth in the social networking world. But let’s not forget that we’re not talking about the cure for cancer here. The technologies required to create social networks are still available in dorm rooms , garages, and mom’s basements around the world. I hear you saying “but Facebook has 500 million users! There’s no way a new network could make an impact!” Maybe not --but maybe the social web is about to evolve into something more than a place with profiles & newsfeeds. Facebook is definitely on the right track with its open graph. In the future, we will connect with friends on multiple websites; we will see search results based on what our friends or people with similar interests have searched for; we will have a social experience wherever we go online -- just as we do now offline.
The key in all of this will be one thing: control. We will have control over what we share in what situation -- just as we do in real life. Now, there are different networks for different levels of connection (FB, LinkedIn, Twitter,) but in the future we will be able to easily switch between our online personas -- from friend, to colleague, to fly-fishing aficianado . We will control how people see us, how we see information, and how brands interact with us. There will be some sacrifices in privacy is we wish to make the most of all these coming tools and cababilities -- but we will have the option... the freedom to choose what information we share about us. We will manage the balance -- just as we do with our offline lives now -- we won't had those decisions off to the first mega-social-networking-platform that comes our way.
I predict that people will react to Sponsored Stories. That they will not want their content shared in a way they don't control. Perhaps they will think to themselves: "what's next? Sponsored images of me drinking my latte or my glass of wine?"
But then again, I could be wrong. My friends could be in the minority of individuals concerned about privacy and control. Perhaps most users are happy to give it all to Facebook. Facebook would certainly be happy to have it -- and why shouldn't they have it? They have control of the market, the platform, and of your content. Seems like a small price to pay to enjoy the benefits of their magical, social playground, no?
Whatever the future of “Sponsored Stories” --I won't lie to you about the fact that that the marketer in me is absolutely intrigued by this product. I will tell my clients about it -- but, I will caution all our clients that backlash against the product might result in backlash against the brands that use it.
What do you think? Do I need to put down the Orwell & Huxley ? Are my friends & colleagues unique in their concerns? Or do you share some of these concerns as well? Feel free to share your thoughts in the (Facebook) comments section below.