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.