Will Facebook come unstuck now that it’s the social glue?

Simon Mainwaring / Advertising / 9 years ago

Today was transformative for the Web. When Facebook announced that its ‘Like’ button is going to appear on publisher sites throughout the web they smashed their own dam walls positioning themselves as treasurer of the social currency of emotion.

This not only gave Facebook the capacity to capture an almost unlimited amount of real-time consumer data, it almost attracted all the responsibilities of such a role in relation to the privacy of those in and outside Facebook. Essentially a publisher will be able to capture all the profile data of a FB “Like” button user adding it to their own database. Mark Zuckerberg went so far today as to state that there will be over one billion “Likes” in the first 24 hours – a staggering proposition.

As a result, publisher websites will get more personalized as Shiv Singh of Razorfish explains, but this move is also priming Facebook for the launch of an ad platform just as Twitter did with Promotional Tweets. I aired my concerns about the Twitter platform and the same apply to Facebook. That said, few are better suited to serve as custodians for the well-being of the social ecosystem than its founding architects who have demonstrated both necessary risk-taking and strategeic sensitivity to the demands and tolerance of their communities.

What this means for advertisers and ad agencies is mind boggling. The CRM implications are huge but this does not absolve marketers from the responsibility of deep engagement with consumers rather than defaulting to familiar broadcast practices honed in the days of media monopolies.

Just as our individual experience of the web will become more personalized as an extension of our Facebook profile, so will our impatience with intrusive advertising. So brands and their ad agency partners would do well to demonstrate the same sensitivity as the architects that built these social platforms. It’s important they remember that this is the moment when advertising is being integrated into social networks and not the other way round.

Do you think Facebook will get the balance right? What about ad agencies?


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  1. I believe it's simply another nail in the coffin of widespread mainstream brands. Engagement is becoming a norm, but it'll be harder to scale in a place so clustered with products and offers. The value of a brand connection will go down now that the numbers will go so high.

  2. Thanks, Shann. Interesting. It is more challenging than ever for brands to engage on a personal, conversational level. As the social space becomes more cluttered with advertising, their impact will possibly diminish. Thx, Shann.

  3. Avatar gunthersonnenfeld says:

    Hi Simon — to your POV, I think it all boils down to how we cultivate this new collective intelligence and with what intent. Retargeting and privacy concerns aside for a moment, the real issue, it seems, is creating a publishing environment that supports and engenders collaboration and co-creation as tenets of a true, open network, not just extracting emotional reactions for the benefit of reselling information. I would think that at least in this construct FB plans to share in this revenue with its own users (as suggested by the new CPL/CPA models). But in a larger sense, there has to be a way for collective IP to develop organically BEFORE it is commercialized — this may just be the “unsticking” point you speak of.

    Ian Schafer has theorized on AdAge that this new FB effort will challenge Google, but I think this is much bigger than being ubiquitous across networks and “outsmarting” competitors. This will involve getting consumer groups to co-regulate alongside of established regulatory concerns, and will also force publishers, studios and networks to really adopt and embrace the idea of value co-creation (as championed by the likes of C.K. Prahalad & M.S. Krishnan).

    This changes everything, and introduces the idea that networks can actually co-exist w/out having to fight over inventory and demand, or at least as a primary revenue driver.

    As for ad agencies, this puts them in the curious and possibly exciting position of becoming content curators, and on a larger scale, co-owners of franchises. We've seen this come and go in disparate efforts over the last few years (Geico's Caveman TV series, for example), but now we're talking about a whole new realm of “productizing stories”. This is why all the fuss about transmedia is so real — because it introduces a reflexive and open system for cultivating ideas and delivering media to audiences that we know are already engaged. Perhaps the FB “like” is the litmus…



  4. Thanks, Gunther. Great feedback. I hope networks can embrace the idea of co-creation. You see it with Nike's XChange lab right now in which they share their IP and even NASA is doing it. That said, there seems to be a race for a stranglehold on the whole web that is inevitable in the early stages of this land rush.

    My fear with ad agencies however is different. Speaking as an ad man myself, I don't feel like their social engagement is sophisticated or deep enough to truly understand the new potential roles you describe. Their mindset is understandably muddied by defensiveness and competitiveness having been honed by the competitive rather than social marketplace.

    The seemingly innocuous 'Like” button is part genius and part diabolical as it is the perfect conduit through which to encourage people to share information in ways they have not done so before. Some will love it, some will hate what it enables. If, however, it becomes a gate through which brave brands can become co-cretors and find new uses for their skills, that would be good for Facebook and the ad industry.

    Thanks for your great and insightful feedback, Simon

  5. Avatar gunthersonnenfeld says:

    I here you on the agencies, but I do see a good many (include the one I work for) starting to turn the corner. I suppose our agency is better off than most simply because we don't rely on media buying as a primary revenue stream. We also don't incur huge infrastructure costs because we partner up on development with select vendors. There is no doubt that there are some challenges in how specialized groups tend to think “traditionally”, but again, the market is forcing us to think much more in an entrepreneurial and social business capacity — and we're developing these types of solutions for the likes of Skype, Toyota, Mattel and Adobe as we speak. Perhaps “ad agencies” as we know them will change completely… I know that we don't call ourselves one 😉

  6. I agree. I am most concerned with large agencies deeply invested in the ways of the past. i too have encountered the redundancy of the term, ad agency. Sometimes it just doesn't capture what the market needs or wants right now. We're all part of a grand experiment! Glad to hear its going so well.


  7. Avatar damonwebster says:

    As the new car smell of all of these consumer gauges fades and become the norm, perhaps the smartest folks in the room will be able to use the information to speak to the audience about a brand in productive manner. For all parties. The desire that people have to feel connected, and share their likes and dislikes, proves that they want to be heard by somebody. Perhaps more than ever. If a brand is the thing that takes them up on that connection, it's up to the people in our business to be mindful of that reach out, and honestly, be respectful. Is that possible? Or are we just strip mining the data and using it as always? We need a focus group for that question.

  8. Thanks, Damon. Agree. The danger right now is that as Twitter and Facebook launch ad platforms the strip mining mentality may unavoidably kick back in and the truly effective social dynamics between brands and consumers will get lost. plus of course there will be privacy issue push back from consumers. Somehow I hope brands don't lose site of the fact that this data is real people who aren't looking to be targeted but rather interested in a relationship. Liker you, I'm watching with interest.

    Thanks for great feedback, Damon.

  9. Negative ninny checking in…..Count me in the camp of haters right now. In fact, I considered deactivating my FB account today. I don't really have a good reason; this new “like” thing just made me feel like “ugh, you mean people are going to be able to more easily share more information?”. It is already hard enough to grab the signals, and this may make it that much harder. Curious to see how it turns out.

  10. I do understand Jodi. That said, here is a great article that tell you how to comprehensively protect you privacy – for now. Personally i believe Facebook offers a lot of positives and they have done a good job of listening to their community so far. We're all watching with interest to what will happen. all the best, Simon

    Link: http://www.pcworld.com/article/194866/facebooks

  11. Thanks for the link Simon. There was a lot of good info in that article. Unfortunately, even FB's current privacy management options don't give me as much control as I would like. I think I'm just too private a person for FB to be a great fit for me. Guess that's why I like Twitter better; I share what I want when I want.

  12. Glad it was useful. And yes, we'll all have to opt in and out as we feel comfortable. Glad all is well, simon