You’re Not Just The Product, You’re The Ads (And Your Friends Should Thank You)

Description:  Word of mouth, sponsored. Trusted recommendations, promoted. Reviews from friends, endorsed. This is the new lexicon of advertising.


Date: Oct 10, 2013


Facebook pioneered this social advertising model in 2011 with its “Sponsored Stories” ad units. Facebook’s filtered News Feed only shows you the most important posts about your friends. But if you Like a brand’s Page or post, check in at a business, download or use an app, or share a link, advertisers can pay to boost that action’s visibility in the feed or have it appear in sidebar ads.

Twitter has social ads too. Its “Promoted Tweets” show posts from businesses you don’t follow. To show these businesses are reputable and relevant the ads show the names of people you follow who follow that business. A Promoted Tweet from HP in my stream mentions three accounts I follow that follow it. Twitter doesn’t use your face, words, or content in its ads, though, and the social context is much less prominent than on Google and Facebook.

Combing social signals with advertising makes marketing seem less generic, which is important considering how many ads we see on a daily basis.  READ REST OF STORY 


Questions for discussion:

1. “Without ads, services like Google, Facebook, and Twitter might have to charge.”  Do you agree with this statement?  Why or Why not?

2.  What are the downsides of “you: becoming the ads?


59 thoughts on “You’re Not Just The Product, You’re The Ads (And Your Friends Should Thank You)

  1. Justin

    I’ve never been overly concerned about the ads being presented to me on my computer as it is usually directed at my interests and likes. Sometimes it might actually recommend something that is actually quite useful or give me ideas of products I may want to look into in the future. Other times the ads being presented are somewhat irrelevant.

    As far as Facebook is concerned; I find that I have been a little bit ahead on this one. I haven’t up dated my Facebook profile, added new photos, or added any new likes in over 4 years. So even if Facebook were to use any of my information it would be highly irrelevant, and not really in the scope of what I like or dislike.I also feel that if I do end up promoting these products I’m likely getting revenge for half the crap that I’m sent every day from farmville updates to other invites. As far as twitter goes I would never use it as one of my least favorite things on Facebook is the status updates, so why would I want a site that was dedicated status updates.

  2. Shannon Storey

    I am not bothered by the ads that show up on the sidebar of my Facebook page. What bothers me is when they suggest site pages to like based on my browsing habits. Sometimes they are accurate and sometimes they are far from it. I think that it is accurate that social media has to have ad sponsorship in order to provide this service free, however, I am not convinced that they need to spend loads of money watching my habits and the habits of my friends and then targeting me with ads they hope will get me to spend. I have to say that I don’t think I have ever clicked on a suggested ad on Facebook and further purchased something just because they suggested it to me. I am more apt to use the word of mouth from a friend than what Facebook indicates to me that they think my friends and I share in common. I know that I in some ways I am the ad and I likely allowed them to look into my habits, but just because I look at something doesn’t mean that it falls in my spectrum of interests nor is it an endorsement from me that I looked at that site or page on Facebook. I think they are taking a big leap in assumption and don’t want them telling my friends what I like or don’t like, what I endorse or don’t. That is my job and in my opinion actual word of mouth from me is far more accurate and effective than a suggestion from Facebook, Twitter or Google.

  3. Fahad Saleem

    It is fair to say that without ads the companies like facebook or google may not be able to maximise their profits, but saying that they won’t be able to operate is a whole different thing. What facebook or google does is to look at your habits and show you ads according to your habits in order to entice you to click on the ad so they can make a buck (rhetoric). If they had not been tracking my habits or kinds of website I watch etc they would still be putting ads on the pages but not specific to my shopping or personal habits. The businesses would find other ways to make money out of their database that is full of our personal information.

    I don’t have problem with becoming an ad, but it is invasion of my privacy that is being exploited by a corporation ( I know i have consented to it ). It is what it is otherwise look at LinkedIn, It costs almost $900 a year to get their full membership… in that way I am happy with the ads.

  4. Katie

    The ads that I see on social media sites that I use such as facebook and twitter do not ever bother me. I know that without them the sites would not actually operate in the same way, without the money that comes from the advertising. I have no problem with companies using these means to advertise as part of their regular business as long as it keeps the site free for me. Even the use of my personal information does not bother me as much as I probably should let it. If the use of my information helps to improve the process and suitability for me then by all means, ill let them have it. I do however worry about having the consumers becoming the product. Letting the social media affect our lives like this can have a negative affect and even over an extended period of time. With larger changes I would be worried as to how far they are willing to go before they say it is too far.

  5. Brett Hempel

    Facebook,Google, and Twitter advertising mostly models itself off of radio. Other than satellite radio it is a free service to use. Revenue and profit does not come from consumers of radio, but yet the advertisers that want to be portrayed by such a station. In essence this advertising has been around since radio was developed. These social sites may very well have to charge for use if there was no advertising. There would be minimal profit if not zero profit without advertisers. Companies also love these social sites because they can hit there target markets with there ads. It is also good for us the consumers because the ads that we do face are of relevance to our interest,demographics and age. You will not face advertisements that base themselves on an older generation. As we know these sites mainly pertain to a younger generation. The danger of us becoming the ads, is too me not a personal problem but a matter of these social sites becoming overloaded with these ads. If this happens the usefulness of the ads ultimately goes down.

  6. Mackenzie Millward

    I personally don’t mind ads on sites like facebook or twitter. I don’t think that they would be the same without the money the make from ads. I agree that this is a crucial part of their business model and feel that it is a fair exchange: I see and take note of their ad and in return I am able to use their site and services free of charge. The part of this system that really bothers me is the use of my personal information without my consent. I don’t even think that it would bother me as much if I had the option to opt out at any time and if this option was easily accessible. I also worry about the downsides of the customer becoming the product. I think we must look at this problem from a societal viewpoint: how much are we willing to allow advertisements and social media to affect our everyday lives. How far is to far? Once consumers allow this type of advertising to occur over an extended period of time, will other types of marketing develop that are even more invasive? Although this type of advertising may be very effective and help businesses, I feel there are larger societal changes in effect that may cross the line.

  7. Aaron Jackson

    I personally believe that Facebook and Twitter will never result to charging a fee of service. Although constantly looking at advertisement while looking at social media, it is something we have to accept when it comes to us being able to access these services with no charge. Every business needs to make money to function, and if that means running advertisement then so be it. I can see the amount of usage being extremely low if it every resulted in personal income having to be used to use the services, including myself. When it comes to us personally being apart of the advertising, it is a unique idea that i am okay with. It helps link personal interests and people that may have similarities that could actually come in handy. It is most definitely a long shot, and unique attempt at something different. I do find in some sense that it can be a breach in confidentiality to be using your face without permission.


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