Facebook as social selling tool

Is it just me or have you noticed that Facebook has completely sold out and is more and more being used as a social network “selling tool”?

And that it is getting a little creepy? It used to be you only had to tolerate advertising when watching a show on TV. Now you must scroll through cleverly engineered advertisements to communicate with your friends or see their communications with you.

How ingenious to insert advertising in your social conversation. It’s like standing around at a party, having a great conversation with one’s friends and then some guy walks up and says: “I like Walmart! Save More. Live Better. ”

I saw a post a few months ago that a friend who I know “likes” Walmart. However, I do really know this person, they despise Walmart and would not be caught dead shopping there. That person obviously did not “like” Walmart.  In my personal opinion – to paraphrase rain man – Walmart Sucks. I ignored this at the time as I did not really see the significance of it. (Advertisement…scroll….scroll)

But this bit of “advertising” must have grabbed a random person I am friends with from the Facebook database – a popular person with lots of friends of their own – and then said that they liked Walmart in a post directed at me. Sort of like a celebrity endorsement but without having to pay anything to the “celebrity”.

From a programmer’s point of view, this does not seem so hard. First, pick out each user in the database that lives in or around a Walmart location. For each user select one of their friends, preferably a popular one with lots of friends themselves. Customize the Walmart Advertisement to put that friend as “liking” it. Post to that person’s news feed. Repeat a gazillion times…

Brilliant social marketing? This seems more like blatant false advertising to me and probably a few lawyers out there would agree if it ever gets to a court of law. But who would you “punish”? Facebook for making money from advertisers who employ this nifty technique or the advertiser for actually saying someone likes them when it is obvious they never liked them and even despise them?

How many people are simply unaware that they are being used and manipulated by some large
corporation with deep enough pockets to pay Facebook for these advertisements so they can make more money hawking their cheap goods produced in China? Perhaps Facebook really thinks that no one notices.  Or maybe no one cares.

Oddly enough, as I was writing this, I went over to Facebook. Lo and behold, here is a post from one of my friends on Facebook (I took out the names and photos):

Doesn’t this “social marketing” for fun and profit overstep ethical boundaries of what is acceptable? It is clearly intentionally deceptive and false. It is clear, to me anyway, that Facebook is intentionally using the information it has stored on the friends that I have communicated with in my life and then is using that social experiential data to make money for itself and its advertisers who use this social marketing tactic. I know, Facebook has user terms and conditions that I agree to by using it and is free so I shouldn’t complain when I am getting something free. In fact, the social benefits of improved communication among the vast amount of people who now use Facebook may well out-weigh the minor inconvenience of ignoring these idiotic ads.

However, people should at least know that enabling social communication with present and
past friends in their life turns out to not be entirely free.


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