Jennifer Stewart

Facebook’s Big Blunder? Exploiting Friendships and Relationships for Profit

In Relationships, stepping out of history on September 2, 2012 at 10:45 am

Facebook logo

Facebook logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been watching the Facebook saga with quite a lot of interest.  Somehow the giant prodigy just doesn’t seem like a winner any more.  Perhaps I’ve been influenced by all the hype around its lack of success on the stock market so far, but I think there’s more to my sense that fundamentally something’s wrong.

It seems to me that its power grew because it was originally about people connecting, with no money involved.  So it was all about the heart.  The foundation was solid.  But now all the advertising and intrusion into privacy, and the extent to which people use it to promote business has changed it into something completely different.  So different in fact that it’s primary purpose isn’t related much to its original one, which created the foundation.  The giant has become weakened.

It’s one thing connecting with your friends to say hi and keep in touch, share stuff, and ask a favor.  I think asking is fine.  It’s challenging, but there’s nothing wrong with it.  If you need, you have to ask, and if people get annoyed or judge you for it, then that’s the reality of your relationship, and it might as well be out in the open so you can both move on.

But it’s another thing to actively market products to your friends on a consistent basis.  I don’t mean it in a moral sense, that it’s bad, because I don’t think it is.  It’s just it doesn’t work after a while!  It doesn’t work with me!  Good case in point is the Borowitz Report, which I absolute love – it’s intelligent satire – hilarious and insightful.  So I subscribed to it.  Now I get an email every day.  I read probably one a week, maybe not even that much.

But what really brought all this home to me was the blog I started, to promote or at least tie in with an ebook I wrote.  Every day I posted something, and I followed somebody’s advice to automatically feed it to my Facebook page.  I didn’t think it through.  Then I started tweeting, and I connected that to my Facebook as well.  Not so long ago I realized that my Facebook friends are getting inundated with tweets and posts that aren’t related to our relationship at all!

I was actively marketing to my friends, and – which is most important when it comes to marketing – ignoring the fact that none of them are interested in my damn book!!  Gaaahhhh.  So I’ve got some choices: I must seek another market for my book, and I must either have more variety on my blog, or I must disconnect the automatic feeds between my Facebook and my blog and my twitter account.  If I want to share something I’ll do it manually.

How many times have people said “don’t mix business with friendship”?  It’s not a cliché for nothing.  Facebook encourages you to do the mixing, but I wonder if it isn’t paying the price.  If the majority of people were drawn to it because it was a place where you could get away from advertising, and it was about real connection and not money, how can it sustain itself when the culture has become about exploiting connection for profit?Hmmm, I think I’ll share this page!

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