Friends Make The Best Ads

by Zoe Pollock

Rob Horning explains the new Facebook ad system which they're calling “Sponsored Stories”:

You, in the course of innocently and eagerly “sharing” updates about the wonderful products and services in your life, craft a magical “story” for your “friends,” and advertisers would like to help your “story” reach more of your “friends” by co-opting it and featuring it more prominently on others’ home pages. (Sorry for the Carles level of scare quotes, but social media’s aggressive transvaluation of the language of intimacy seems to necessitate them.)

Horning sees the potential for the ultimate marketing technology loop:

Facebook already filters potential content from your friends, using algorithms to generate what it thinks you should see. The existence of these algorithms invites efforts to game them, to figure out what will get your update noticed and disseminated the most. Sponsored Stories supplements the algorithms, giving users a chance to jump the line, to craft their updates more like marketing, so they will receive wider play. This then feeds the loop, making personal disclosures seem ever more like marketing, implying that they should be mined even more thoroughly for their advertising potential.