Facebook just rolled out another new and intrusive advertising initiative. Not surprisingly, this one seems a little more insidious than the rest.
Mashable reports that Facebook is selling advertising in user’s newsfeeds without user affiliation to the brand (i.e. users or their friends haven’t Liked the brand page). While Facebook asserts that this is simply a “test,” it appears that everyone except for Facebook’s public relations department understands that this is the new normal.
So what is the big deal?
The big deal with an initiative like this is that it seems to be an overt betrayal of Facebook’s (implied) agreement with its users. The decline of Facebook’s stock yesterday (the end of its first “lockup period”) showed that Facebook may be a house of cards. Their desperation to right its ship may be warranted, and this appears to be an indication that they feel a sense of urgency to make nice with investors.
Consider this statement from Mark Zuckerberg to potential investors back in February:
“Simply put: we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services. And we think this is a good way to build something. These days I think more and more people want to use services from companies that believe in something beyond simply maximizing profits.”
How empty do those platitudes seem now? The Facebook advertising model has become analogous to television advertising. It will be interesting to see users react to this, and how effective it is compared with Google AdWords – now a competing product.
So what’s next for Facebook Advertising?
It’s hard to imagine what Facebook could do increase advertising at the expense of user experience any more. If they were truly desperate they could try:
- Product placement in personal photos, such as the additional of a soda in a baby picture or fast food wrappers at a wedding reception
- Allowing brands to hijack user accounts, sending whatever they want from whoever they want
- Mandatory GPS chip implantation allowing geo-specific ads to be shown through the optional Facebook ocular implant
- Mandatory Facebook ocular implant.
The point is that there really isn’t a clear lower ground for Facebook to take. With nearly two billion shares of Facebook’s stock set to release in the next nine months, the stock in decline, and an advertising strategy that ignores user experience completely, something’s got to give.
That “something” right now is user experience.