Do you ever open Facebook to find all your friends having more fun than you? Ever think, I wish I was on that trip, at that bar, or flying first class, too? Do you find yourself sucked in, almost vicariously, to others’ lives?
Personally, I answered yes to all three questions. Facebook is an interesting development for the marketing and social worlds. It’s the single greatest advancement to the combinatory industry of social marketing. The company is a multi-billion dollar organization based solely on marketing a vast treasure trove of user data.
In recent years, they’ve forced users to verify their identities with state and/or federal IDs. The swath of data and information is a honeypot for the company. Even if users stopped using Facebook altogether, the treasure trove would still exist – the imprint made. Facebook could sell that data for vast sums of money.
Friends Make Friendly Advertisements
Marketers have long known that friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers – word of mouth – are the best forms of advertising. Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point asserted that key figures tip the popularity of products. Facebook is at the fulcrum – parlaying it’s data into profits and inserting advertisements into the stream of new updates.
When you used to login into Facebook, you’d see ads on the side of your friend’s status updates. But that wasn’t good enough. Research suggests that the most highly clicked areas tend to be the easiest to see. Makes sense, right? The eyes start at the top left and top middle of any page. By placing ads inline with your friends status updates, Facebook can market to you easier and ensure more traffic to companies.
Your Face, Their Message
Nowadays, Facebook seems creepy. Zuckerberg, their founder and CEO, once questioned why people just trusted him with all this data. He seemed quizzical about why he deserved such volunteering of data, but he wasn’t stopping it.
Not too long ago, the company was sued for using profile pictures of friend groups to advertise products. Let’s say your friend “Likes” Nike. Nike is interested in selling more shoes. They know that by leveraging your friends picture, you may be more likely to buy their product. It’s called social proof.
After a nasty lawsuit, profile pictures went by the wayside. People weren’t advertised products by their friends’ faces, and there was even a settlement deal for those that had been victims of this advertising tactic. Unfortunately, it might come back again.
Can You Be Frugal On Facebook?
But a larger question about social forces and advertising remains. Facebook may be the single greatest marketing platform that ever existed. If I were to post an update that included a picture to my brand new Nikes, my friends may have no idea I was sponsored to share it. I’m profiting off this social display – the simple share and spend.
Suddenly, companies are in the network and it’s making frugality a challenging skill.