Yesterday we mentioned that Facebook announced their new Graph Search, which is essentially a way to stalk your Facebook friends and family. In a fiery blog post, engineer and contributing Tech Crunch writer Steve Cheney went on to call it a con, saying that it is the equivalent of him yelling across an auditorium for a recommendation for a doctor to see for his cough.
As Cheney points out, data that is out of date is referred to as “dirty.” Using dirty data does more harm than good as companies, or in this case users, use dirty data to make decisions. Cheney says that a lot of the data that makes up Graph Search is “totally irrelevant and dirty.”
And by “a lot” of dirty data, Cheney estimates that up to half of it is dirty. How does he figure that much data is dirty? Says Cheney, “In the brand advertiser world CPMs have been the preferred measurement (people aren’t going to click an ad for Coke; instead its purpose is to influence you). For the past several years big advertisers on FB have actually been directing massive amounts of paid media to acquire fans. They quite literally bought likes.
Why? Early on FB made the case to brands that they must have fans… together with the ad agencies they convinced the Cokes of the world to spend money to be competitive (hey Pepsi is here too). Then, FB promised, something miraculous would happen. Your friends would see in their news feed you liked Coke!
So… FB convinced big advertisers to spend huge sums on CPA-like ad units whose sole purpose was to acquire fans. Ad agencies dedicated creative, planning and strategy resources to get the Cokes and American Expresses of the world to pay to have users click—almost 100% of the time because the user was promised some sweepstakes or contest.”
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We’ve all seen the contests and giveaways where you can “like” to enter or qualify. We didn’t necessarily “like” the page for Sears on our own, but we did because by doing so, we were entered for a chance to win a $500 gift card. Cheney uses the example of American Express, which has spent millions of dollars buying likes. So if you were to search to see the favorite credit cards of your friends, you may get back “American Express,” as the answer, but it is more likely that your friends liked the page because they were promised an American Express prepaid card, then it is that they intentionally sought out the American Express page specifically to like it.
Cheney goes on to point out that Facebook’s claim that one trillion connections have been made on the network so far does not translate to good recommendations like Facebook would lead you to believe. Says Cheney, “FB has 1 billion users. 1,000 signals x 1 billion is 1 trillion. So each user has logged on average 1,000 events/photos/places/things etc. IN TOTAL. And that’s gonna somehow predict where I want to eat? Most of that 1,000 pieces of data are your actual photos and friends.”
In the end, Cheney points out the same thing that we have pointed out countless times: Facebook users are not the customers of Facebook. The advertisers are the customers of Facebook, and Facebook users are its product.
The moral of the story is: Don’t ever believe that a new feature released by Facebook is for anything other than to monetize you further.
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