Facebook Sponsored Stories: Creepy or Totally Cool?

by Stacey Alexander on January 28, 2011

in Social Media

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook guy

For the last couple of days,  there’s been some chatter about the new addition to Facebook for business: Sponsored Stories. Our local newspaper, The News and Observer, put out an article briefly explaining the service and quoting someone who says that Facebook users should be mad and push back. My friend, Jay Dolan, wrote a post on it. Jay thinks it’s a bad idea.

I disagree. As a marketer, I think that Sponsored Stories is a fantastic idea. I don’t feel like using this service would violate the privacy of any user, or that it’s something I should have to pay the individual user to use.  I honestly don’t see how it’s all that different than the “this many of your friends like this page” box, which you can post wherever you want. Marketers across the web are probably agreeing that they can’t wait to try this new service.

As individuals, I think a lot of people are going to disagree. I’ve been seeing articles and blog posts explaining to their readers how to delete their cookies and remove themselves from everything that could possibly be used to send them a targeted ad–which I don’t understand, as I’d rather see an ad for something I’m interested in than something that has nothing to do with me. So I’m assuming that the same people who are interested in that information are also angered by the fact that Facebook does not offer an opt-out feature to Sponsored Stories at this time.

My take is this: Facebook has made no secret about the fact that your info belongs to them. In reality, you should know by now that nothing you put on the internet ever fully belongs to you again. Although there are still privacy and plagiarism laws in effect, I don’t see that Facebook highlighting something you’ve done on their platform to your friends on that platform is in violation of any of those.

These are things your friends would already see. If you don’t want them to see it, don’t do it. As long as they maintain our privacy settings, I think they have the right. We choose to put our information on Facebook, knowing that every time they add a new feature, the automatic setting is opted-in. This should not be a surprise to us.

Going back to my marketer self, my only concern is how Facebook will pick the stories to highlight. Because if I were Walmart, I certainly wouldn’t want the picture in Jay’s post to be my sponsored story.

So how do you feel about Facebook’s Sponsored Stories? Creepy? Awesome? And from what side are you looking at it?

Photo by Robert Scoble

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Phil Buckley January 28, 2011 at 11:03 am

The Facebook users complaining are a bunch of whiny children. Come on people… that’s like giving a panhandler on the street some change, then backing away in horror when you find out they bought a bottle of booze with it. Then starting a campaign to force the panhandler to only use your change for new born kitten rescue only.

At what point do you come to the realization that Facebook is a for-profit corporation and stop thinking of it as a college plaything?

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Stacey Alexander Stacey Alexander January 28, 2011 at 11:16 am

That sounds like a video opp…

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Brad January 28, 2011 at 11:13 am

Whenever you connect to a website they gather all kinds of analytics and information about you. I don’t think it is unreasonable for them to use information that you freely choose to provide to their site as a way to create a revenue stream, advertising, whatever. It was the inevitable “evolution” of the site and internet, so to speak. What is funny, is how long it has taken sites to eventually do this. The wealth of information the web has available has many potential uses, from just being informational to becoming promotional. Overall, if I were facebook or running a social networking site, I think it would be what I would be doing. Despite the desire to connect people, they also want to pay the bills, bandwidth, too. And the money to do that doesn’t grow on trees. Just my two cents and a half cents, whatever that might be worth…

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Stacey Alexander Stacey Alexander January 28, 2011 at 11:19 am

Exactly. We give them the info, they should be able to use it.

I think a lot of people forget that Facebook has bills to pay and that they are a business, not a service that thousands of people volunteer their entire work week to keep running.

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Mike Brown Mike Brown January 28, 2011 at 11:40 am

For businesses how does the sponsored stories work? What is a cost or even the process for them to get started?

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Stacey Alexander Stacey Alexander January 28, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Haven’t found that information yet. It may be something they’re rolling out gradually. They do that sometimes. I’ll get in touch with our rep and get back to you. Good questions.

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Morgan Siem January 31, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Stacey, this is a fantastic post! I completely agree with you, even though I see why people will probably think it’s creepy in the beginning. People said the same thing about the Facebook news feed when it first started. People will get used to it.

I also think that it’s wise on Facebook’s part that people don’t get paid when their posts are selected to be sponsored stories. The reason I say that is that people would abuse it if they thought they might make a buck. Suddenly all of our friends would be posting about their favorite brands every few minutes in hopes that one of their messages might get picked up and sold.

I”m excited to try the new feature. It will be exciting to see the impact it has for our clients.

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Stacey Alexander Stacey Alexander February 1, 2011 at 9:27 am

Thanks! I didn’t think of that part. People would start blowing up their friends’ feeds with brand mentions. I see videos being made on ‘How to get the most money for your Facebook updates’, which sounds terrible.

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Sal Conigliaro February 1, 2011 at 2:33 pm

It’s a simple remedy: don’t use Facebook if it bothers you that much.

Damn free service! How dare they change anything! I don’t pay money just so they can do whatever they feel li— oh, right.

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