I may sound like I am bashing Facebook — i might be a bit, but I came across a funny vision centered on Facebook a few days ago. It all started when I heard about some interesting startups that are improving the targeting and effectiveness of ads by mining Facebook, Twitter, etc. I was intrigued by their business models and thought highly of their potential, at least for fast growth and a quick exit. A lot of the intriguing discussion centers on just what these systems know about you — especially the younger you, who is constantly ‘checking’ in with Facebook. Warnings about how that lets bad guys know where you are is going unheeded, perhaps more publicity around how robbers are using technology to find out when a house is empty would help.
Anyway, the more Facebook and these other systems know about you, the more the information can be used in interesting ways — advertising is but one. And this is where my vision hit, once I heard Facebook are themselves, no surprise, going to use what they know about you to send out targeted ads. On the surface, it all sounds good — more ads for me, more appropriate ads, things I might actually click on and use. What comes from normal email SPAM is a waste of internet traffic just like what comes in my mail box is a waste of the mail delivery person’s efforts. I might as well tell Facebook as much about myself as I can, including where I am each hour, so if they want to send me a coupon for the store I am in, i would use it.
What I think I would need, me and all the other people so inclined, is a waiting area in the shopping malls or stores. After all, it may take some time for Facebook to process my check-in, see who is sponsoring ads for my profile and actually send me one that I can use. I would need a place to wait — perhaps a corner somewhere, where we can all congregate. Once the email comes in — we would all dash to the store to pick up the now cheaper item. Over time, the crowds waiting in the new smokers corner would easily dwarf the actual smokers, who were hopefully getting ads for products to help quit smoking.
The real system users would try to trick Facebook by checking in to a store they have not yet gone to — after all, why wait in the new smokers corner if you can sit on your couch at home for the ad to come in. I’m planning to go to Foot locker to shop, but only if Facebook sends me a 10% discount coupon. The robber would be confused thinking I am shopping but I am now waiting in my house, car keys in hand, for the coupon to arrive. Hmmm, may be I need a crow bar to defend myself.
Facebook and targeted ads, will it lead to the new smokers corner — will stores have to allocate space near the entrance for people to congregate waiting for their discounts to arrive? May be we will all have to agree to turn on GPS tracking so Facebook would know we are actually at the store and not abusing the check-in. Maybe the store should just give us a coupon for being a Facebook user — all seems more efficient that way.
Do you think Saturday Night Live could do a sketch on this?