Coca-Cola will never be my friend


It may be the secret to monetizing Facebook’s gigantic user base (50 million and growing), but I have to say that my first response on reading about the proposals that Mark Zuckerberg outlined today was a mental picture of some guy barging into a party at my house and yelling about free pizza or T-shirts or something, and handing out coupons to all my friends while dressed up like a giant Coke can.

Just between you and me, if that were to happen, I would have to fight the urge to punch the guy. Bastardizing the community indeed. And yet, Facebook is hoping that if one of my “friends” starts bombarding me with every book he’s bought at Chapters or every movie he wants from Blockbuster, I’m going to feel so warm and fuzzy that I’m darn well going to go and buy a bunch of books and movies too.

Let’s not even talk about the loony idea that I or anyone I know (and that includes a bunch of Facebook’s target demographic) making friends with a Sprite mascot of some kind, and engaging in all kinds of viral brand-building shenanigans with other Facebook users on a Sprite-branded page or through a special Sprite-sipping widget. Not going to happen.

I know that Facebook is a free service, as Zuckerberg pointed out during the Q&A, and so we can’t really complain about ads in our news feed or ads on our message page, or possibly even getting messages from corporations offering us things they think we might someday be interested in. I’m just saying that the prospect of that kind of thing fills me with dread — and generally speaking, dread isn’t an emotion that works well when you’re trying to sell something.

For more, see Eric Eldon’s post at VentureBeat, and some thoughts from Henry Blodget at Silicon Alley Insider. Jeremiah Owyang calls it the rise of the “Fan-sumer,” but I think his portrayal of the new ad platform and its prospects is, well… overly rosy.

Comments (10)

  1. Rob Hyndman wrote::

    Dread goes better with Coke. ;)

    Tuesday, November 6, 2007 at 7:47 pm #
  2. Rob Hyndman wrote::

    The more I think about this the creepier it seems. Using my “friends” to insinuate commercial messages into my life seems, well, kind of sleazy, actually.

    Tuesday, November 6, 2007 at 8:59 pm #
  3. Dave Walker wrote::

    There are a very small handful of real friends from whom I would accept – and act on – recommendations on books, music, etc. Facebook so-called-friends? Not so much.

    The whole idea of “friendship” via Facebook is a bit of a joke. It’s nice to get back in touch with some old college classmates, but I wouldn’t count them among my inner circle of advisors.

    We’ll see how intrusive this is. Hopefully it won’t be a guy in a Coke can suit barging in the front door.

    Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 12:09 am #
  4. Webomatica wrote::

    Yep I’m with you on this one. The more I think about it, even in real life there are “trusted friends” who you’d really listen to, then there’s the “acquaintance” that sells Amway and Mary Kay that people tolerate but completely ignore. Facebook don’t know me well enough to be a trusted friend and never will.

    Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 1:46 am #
  5. Joe Duck wrote::

    … so we can’t really complain about ads in our news feed or ads on our message page

    We can, you did, and you are right. The idea that simply because I use a service means I “owe” them something went out with the massive monetization of the web. I have value to Facebook that, as of last week’s launch of Open Social, exceeds Facebook’s value to to me. I like Coca Cola but I’m going with the social network that gives me a piece of their action. I’m greedy to ask for that? Maybe, but only about 1/1,000,000,000 as greedy as Facebook or Google. I can live with that.

    Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 1:17 pm #
  6. Mark Evans wrote::

    Facebook needs a way to make money but this approach seems creepy somehow given the user information it’ll be using to do the targeting.

    Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 4:21 pm #
  7. Rob Hyndman wrote::

    “I’m greedy to ask for that? Maybe, but only about 1/1,000,000,000 as greedy as Facebook or Google. I can live with that.”

    LMAO, and agree completely. What he said.

    Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 6:27 pm #
  8. Mark Federman wrote::

    Further indication that today’s marketer’s, in general, do not understand how marketing has changed over the past decade or so. More important, this demonstrates that marketers still hold to simple, deterministic, cause-and-effect models of buying behaviour, rather than acknowledging that complexity rules the day when it comes to the ubiquitously connected and pervasively proximate world.

    I don’t fault Zuckerberg on this move. He’s just playing P.T. Barnum to the marketers’ rubes.

    And, Joe Duck: the social network that gives you a piece of Coca Cola’s action is called the stock market.

    Thursday, November 8, 2007 at 9:17 am #
  9. Interesting thoughts and valid points.

    I’m taking a slightly more contrarian view, however.

    I’ve gotten enough value out of Facebook as it is that I am willing to pay a nominal monthly subscription so that I don’t see any Social Ads.

    More here:

    Sunday, November 11, 2007 at 12:59 am #
  10. Rob Hyndman wrote::

    Chi-chi, I have a feeling their answer would be that you’re worth more to them dead than alive. So to speak.

    Sunday, November 11, 2007 at 12:32 pm #