Over the past few months I have noticed that Facebook has become a destination for all of my old friends from high school and even for my parents. A new wave of people have arrived, I would suspect we are in the early majority stage of social networking on Facebook which follows those of us who were early adopters of the service.
- innovators (2 percent of online population),
- early adopters (14 percent),
- early majority (34 percent),
- late majority (34 percent),
- and laggards (16 percent).
Along with the arrival of these new digital denizens has come an interesting issue. Up until now most of the people that we have corresponded with through social networks have been people with whom we share commonalities, be it interests or career, and not necessarily with people we know well offline (by percentage).
Now I find myself corresponding with people that I DO know offline but that, for one reason or another, I lost touch with over the years. with many the only thing we have in common is a shared experience in our past (work, school, etc).
Two things happened today that made me consider how social networking services that have started to welcome the late majority will change.
First, I was served this advertisement in my Facebook adspace. It featured my friend and colleague Jason Falls (Jason, did you know you were an ad in my network). It was quite possibly the first time I have ever paid attention to an ad in Facebook when Jason's familiar photo caught my eye. Apparently he is a fan of WeSeed.
WeSeed is a pretty cool virtual stock market site that allows you to own and trade (not with real money) a portfolio of stocks that are related to your interests. It is a Web 2.0 version of The Motley Fool site, which seems to be more for “grownups these days. WeSeed caters more to 20-somethings.
What is interesting about WeSeed and other that use Facebook's Social Advertising tool is that it mashes up its fan page with your friend list when it delivers the advertising. In other words, this is a PR play (the Fan page) combined with targeted/behavioral advertising.
Voila! Your friends are now selling you on the legitimacy of the advertiser without their explicit knowledge. And if Jason Falls doesn't do it for me, maybe one of my other friends will. A reload of the page brought out Shannon Paul.
As all of our networks expand with the new wave of entrants, this kind of advertising will become more prevalent, even as the US Federal Trade Commission struggles to come up with ways to determine what kinds of behavioral targeting is ethical.
Overlaying this is the quality of the relationships that people are building online. already I have heard complaints about digital only “friends” being a surface exercise, and now I am also hearing the same about reconnections. This comment from Jonathan Block illustrates the point:
I am concerned that the use of advertising mixed into these already fragile “relationships” might further erode the effectiveness of the outreach.
What do you think?
How to Opt Out of Social Ads on Facebook
UPDATE: In the comments, Keli Whidden shared how you can stop Facebook from using your profile picture in sidebar ads. I thought it would be a good idea to share it here (this is as of February 2009).
- Log in to your Facebook Account
- Go to Settings in the top right navigation bar
- Choose “Privacy Settings” from the pull down menu
- Click on “manage” in the Privacy setting choice in the list
- Select the “News Feed and Wall”
- Pick the “Social Ads” tab (at the top)
- From the drop down menu choose “no one”
It seems to me to be a lot of steps (7) to opt out of this feature, but glad that at least you CAN opt out.