Thursday, November 8

Facebook beacons: searing flame of targeted viral marketing, or dim bulb of privacy violation?

Right now, the Facebook Platform does a terrible job of managing the way you give permission to third party apps to spam your friends with invites. The 'all your friends are checked by default' approach is a terrible idea, because it actually makes it hard to share something with the one friend who'll really appreciate it.

In the mad scramble to collect new users, no matter how disinterested they are, current Facebook Platform developers sacrifice the most viral part of the distribution mechanism: making a highly-targeted invitation to a user who'll love the recommendation, and who will then spread the invitation to other highly-relevant users.

If Facebook Beacon takes the same shotgun approach to viralocity then I don't think it'll amount to much. If all the web service providers I use add the Beacon code to their templates and I spend the whole day hitting 'uncheck facebook friends' each time I perform an action on another website, I'll delete my Facebook profile quicker than you can say, "f***book".

If, on the other hand, Beacon handles the opting-in and opting-out in a smarter way (by, frinstance, letting me create short lists of friends with similar interests so I can manage opt-in/outs conveniently) then I think it could be huge.

Let's wait and see...

At long last, Facebook today finally unveiled its much hyped advertising strategy at an invite-only event in New York. Their three pronged attack has already been reported on ad nauseum, so beyond a quick overview, I won't get into the reporting side much.

There are those who agree with Zuckerberg that Facebook's new strategy is a winner -- highly targeted ads and consumers acting as marketers. There are those who think the whole idea reeks of privacy violations -- ads based on the personal information about yourself you intended only to share with friends? There are those who were hoping for something bigger -- the next AdSense. There are those who wonder if the whole thing will work -- who wants to promote products anyway?

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