I have been a follower of the sponsored conversations and sponsored tweets and the sponsored anything for a while now and I intend to keep on top of it because it does have somewhat of a effect on my business model although indirect. TechCrunch talks about banning sponsored status updates from their application. This will take on quite a white hat look in many of the purists’ eyes, but in my eyes if seems to be a horse of a different color. As a social media consultant I always talk about the metrics and ROI of using some of these tools, and the business model given today’s idea of return does not have much spark as it relates to sponsored status updates on Facebook.
For the most part, sponsored conversations or updates or tweets or whatever the case is mostly about reach. Part of that reach and probably what is most important to advertisers and brands is the amount of eyeballs. Let’s face it, they are not banging my door down to put up banner ads here as I am not getting the reach they require, and that is exactly why Facebook’s idea of banning the practice of sponsored updates is sort of a moot point.
With the limits they have on “friends” there will never be the huge amount of eyeballs that brands and media buyers are looking for in a property. My Facebook page will only ever have 5000 friends at the most. That is not what they want. They are looking for the biggest bang for their buck. I do understand and argue that its not about the number of followers it is about the number of conversions, or how or who you influence, but that thinking has not reached the heads of the people that are signing the checks. I think if I were to ask Ted Murphy the best way to sell the sponsored conversations it would be about your number of page views over the number of cool people you know.
I think this has to do with a preemptive strike and more about what they have for plans down the road. I do think however that with the addition of FriendFeed now in their crown jewels, it may also be a tell of what they have in store for a plan to for future looks of their new acquired service. As the FTC becomes involved and we see more and more of a crackdown these types of maneuvers will be quickly reversed or adopted but I applaud Facebook for taking a stand in this part of the controversy.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention something I thought I should get into this post. With the banning of sponsored conversations this also make it difficult to cross pollinate all of your networks with a sponsored post which in turn keeps the walled garden feel to Facebook which I think also helps their business plan. Keeping third party applications from sending out a mass tweet/update/status message to all of your “friends” at once makes it also difficult.