advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

"This site requires..." Aka, why do you need to bug my *friends*?

The illusion of what a friend or fan is aside, here’s the problem with Facebook that we touched upon in the recent AdVerve. (And I use that site to describe here at large all the sites people hang at each day.)

There is this mindset by social networking sites or emerging platforms that forces a sense of community involvement on you, often at the expense of whatever degree of privacy you can reasonably expect to have online.

Worse, for their part, agencies and brands have gulped this Kool-Aid. The problem I have is that while I *may* interact online with people in my friend lists, the experience I have on any site is still a solitary one—and I like it that way. Or not.

But it’s my choice.

Most promotions I’ve seen, and every one being drummed up in an agency by creative teams on a Saturday as we speak, will attempt to sell the client on the idea that the whole purpose of social nets is to connect with people. And their people tell two people, and then it goes *viral* and then... Yea, then!

That screengrab is from a free gum promo I signed up from for to see what it was about. Via snail mail I got 3D glasses, a code and some mints. To activate it though or even use the glasses, I had to let it have access to my Facebook account and network. I suppose this is the value exchange most could live with and few fight, but it just feels invasive.

(Plus, can’t you just show me a little 3D content without having to go through Facebook to do it? I promise, I’ll let you connect—I really will.)

But there’s a dynamic with friends and connecting that almost never gets brought up in a pitch. Why? Because the client sees good ole’ reach and frequency dangling in front of their eyes in the form of an “influencer” and their extended network.

What they skip is this: Not everyone is a meaningful friend on Facebook.

I know, that’s old news for anyone living on Facebook for any length of time. Except agencies and brands who, with rare exception trying something that challenges the platform, haven’t gotten the message. Despite many of the follows people return the favor of, or the friend adds they grant, most are out of pity or guilt.

I kid, sorta, but is a friend of a friend of a business friend, or someone who liked something you said on Twitter or whatever really your friend? Are they anyone you want hanging in your primary inner circle online?

But what happens is that you add them because they may get offended lest they bitch to the *friend* you do know well that “Why won’t you follow back!”

The reverse of that though is that often it’s you being that extended friend trying to get on the radar of someone you might admire. The last thing you wanna do is suddenly draw them into your web of free giveaway hell, because it makes you look bad.

Great friends. *Sorta* friends. Fringe friends. Whatever. The point for brands is:

Me granting you permission to access my online social life doesn’t extend to my network just because you say it does.

This is a solitary experience that I like to control, thank you very much. Your app really needs my friends’ names to work? You mean, the brand needs my friends’ names. Forcing me to participate by undermining the friends I took time to connect with undermines the implied understanding I have with them.

Why should I mess that up just so you can sell them stuff?

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go brainstorm on this cool promotion where we ask 10 Facebook users to give us... no, really, this is gonna be cool.

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