I love this analysis by Geoff Livingston of what went wrong with Facebook Beacon: They put business before community. Geoff argues this won’t work in social media:
ROI is a by- product of community participation as opposed to hard transactional advertising.
If you haven’t followed the Facebook Beacon controversy, here is a brief & manageable timeline for media snackers:
November 6, 2007: Facebook announces new targeted advertising system, Beacon: AP news; Read/Write Web
Analysts reflect on the business implications & possibilities of Facebook Beacon:
- Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang explains & compares My Space and Facebook advertising products
Privacy concerns emerge
- Forrester analyst Charlene Li’s Close Encounter with Facebook Beacon
Moveon.org starts campaign against Facebook Beacon: Read/Write Web; Moveon.org online petition; Moveon.org Facebook group (65,000 members between Nov. 20 and Dec. 3); For Immediate Release commentary (Shel Holtz & Neville Hobson);
November 28: Facebook makes changes to Beacon: Facebook announcement (ripe for ripping apart in a PR rhetorical analysis!)
The PR nightmare doesn’t end here:
- In spite of changes to Beacon, Privacy Issues Still Loom (from Read/Write Web)
- Coca-Cola backs out of Facebook Beacon; NY Times B.I.T.S. analysis here; ZDNet analysis here
- PC World reveals Beacon is stealthier than it seems; commentary from CNet blog (parent.thesis)
- Robert Scoble criticizes Facebook’s PR moves
Evolution of Beacon Nov. 6 – Nov. 29 from NY Times B.I.T.S. (hat tip to Jeremiah Owyang who posted this on twitter)
Edits (Dec. 5 & 6):
The big PR question is: Where is Mark Zuckerberg? It started with R. Scoble’s post above but others (note the excellent PR advice in this post), including Shel Israel, are asking the same question.
Todd Defren posts as Fake Mark Zuckerberg and shows what Mark should say. Funny, but great PR advice.
Mark Zuckerberg finally posts on Facebook blog. Shel Israel comments and finds Mark’s statement credible. I think the first paragraph is nice, because it admits they made mistakes. However, what has annoyed me throughout Facebook statements is that they claim to have created Beacon to “help people share information with their friends.” Really? As my students put it: “If I want to share information with my friends, I TELL them.” Beacon is an advertising platform and its goal is to make more money. So, although the first paragraph is OK, the second one is not:
When we first thought of Beacon, our goal was to build a simple product to let people share information across sites with their friends. It had to be lightweight so it wouldn’t get in people’s way as they browsed the web, but also clear enough so people would be able to easily control what they shared. We were excited about Beacon because we believe a lot of information people want to share isn’t on Facebook, and if we found the right balance, Beacon would give people an easy and controlled way to share more of that information with their friends.
But, here’s the change, as a result of user “feedback” (outrage?):
today we’re releasing a privacy control to turn off Beacon completely. You can find it here.
And, OK, this excerpt is good PR:
It took us too long after people started contacting us to change the product so that users had to explicitly approve what they wanted to share. Instead of acting quickly, we took too long to decide on the right solution. I’m not proud of the way we’ve handled this situation and I know we can do better.
What’s missing is some sort of promise/guarantee that user privacy will be a priority in the future. Instead, Mark’s last paragraph closes the topic. He hopes that:
this new privacy control addresses any remaining issues we’ve heard about from you.
Meaning, that’s it, we’re done, can we drop it now? We’ll see…
Dec. 5: Read/Write Web claims this is the end of the Beacon saga… the blogosphere is tired.