Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Beacon: A signal of my displeasure

The saga continues…

Instead of adding to my earlier post, I decided this whole Zappos-Facebook word of mouth marketing technique warranted its own post.

I added the link to my blog post as a posted item within my Facebook profile, and a few hours later it appeared as a News Feed item, pushing the information into each of my friends’ personal viewing space. That prompted an old camp friend to send me a blog posting by David Berkowitz about Beacon, Facebook's new application that allows "users to share information from other websites for distribution to their friends on Facebook." I got that from the press release, which lists Zappos.com as one of 44 participating in the Beacon launch.

Now I have the answers to all three questions I posed yesterday.
  1. What does Zappos or Facebook think there is to gain by sharing my purchase with the masses?
  2. What does that icon to the left of my name mean?
  3. How the heck did it get there?
A peek at the Beacon application page answers question #2. Here's an explanation for the application, which is written with marketers in mind:
Stories of a user's engagement with your site may be displayed in his or her profile and in News Feed. These stories will act as a word-of-mouth promotion for your business and may be seen by friends who are also likely to be interested in your product.
And that answers question #1. Word of mouth marketing is their primary goal. But were my friends really influenced by my purchase decision? Some may have learned of Zappos.com, but I think the benefit to the advertiser was minimal.

Question 3 touches on user privacy issues, which the Beacon page also addresses. The application page mentions the importance of user privacy, but from my experience I think they need to walk the talk. Here’s what the page says (emphasis added by me):
When you send an action to Facebook, the user is immediately alerted of the story you wish to publish and will be alerted again when they sign into Facebook. The user can choose to opt out of the story in either instance, but the user doesn't need to take any action for the story to be published on Facebook.
Really? Can I? I didn’t find that to be the case.

I find this interesting from a marketer's perspective, but as a consumer I am troubled.

1 comment:

David Berkowitz said...

Thanks for commenting, Sandi. It's really interesting to see the snowballing backlash to Beacon, though hardly surprising.

I personally think there's more value to the advertiser than you let on, as the News Feed is incredibly valuable real estate, and your endorsement will also hold some degree of weight with your friends, so even if they're not in the market for shoes, for instance, they may well be curious to see a new site, revisit a site they've been to, or just check out what you've been doing online.

The issues of privacy controls should be of a more immediate issue for Facebook, as people need a way to opt out of more than just each individual instance.