The Un-Social Media
Recent reports show that the EU has decided to limit facebook’s usage of users’ data for advertising purposes. This decision arrives at a most critical time for facebook as it is approaching its IPO date. The targeted advertising platform offered by facebook, which allows advertiser to approach very specific target audiences, is what made advertising on facebook very productive but at the same time has raised much debate over user privacy. “But how do they know?” is one of the most common questions asked by clients when discussing advertising on facebook. “How do they know that I have been to this place?” or, “How do they know that I am thinking about going to that school?” With the rise of facebook as a major factor in our daily lives, be it through constant updates through your mobile phone, or through the uncontrollable urge to comment on a post or a tag, sneaking away for a minute or two to check up on your friends’ status updates, one can’t deny that the advertisements appearing on the side bar are getting more and more personal and even interactive.
Not so quietly, in a relatively short period of time and with a very noticeable rise in income, facebook managed to overcome Banner Blindness. Banner Blindness is a term coined by Benway and Lane In 1998. A series of tests and experiments done in 1998 conducted on user interfaces reveled that users have adapted the capability of overlooking and even completely ignoring flickering ads, flashy banners and other distracters while reading an article or watching a video.
Last year facebook launched a mechanism known as “Sponsored Stories.” The aim was to attract the attention of users by utilizing the users’ own friends, so that our friends’ action became the advertisement. The check-ins that we do, the ”Likes” we share, the activities we post become the subject matter of the advertisements that appear to us. The evolution of advertising on facebook is not surprising given the premium value assigned by advertisers to information stored on facebook profiles. Advocates of commercial companies and ad agencies are trying to encourage dormant facebook users to write more content, ”Like” more, and in general enrich their facebook profile. Sharing is the key word whether you are a “super facebook user,” ”Like” addict or a virtual bunker. The sharing that facebook is forcing upon its users is in fact the intended leakage of personal information that we may or may not have chosen to share with others. This information is considered premium for advertisers when building segmented advertising campaigns. In recent weeks, users have reportedly noticed that FB has started to display old photo albums with the recommendation that users add a location to specific photos. In most cases FB even suggests the specific location to be added, and most of the time these suggestions are accurate! Is this a new gimmick designed to auto-tag photos based on digital imprints left on the file via mobile device or digital camera? Or is this another attempt by Google to provide new premium user information to advertisers to be used in the future?
In either case, FB will need to address the concerns raised by the EU at some point. It is interesting to see how this story unfolds as facebook is preparing for the scheduled IPO in April 2012.