Does Facebook play foul?

Marco Camisani Calzolari second (I think) book “Escape from Facebook” is out. I am very likely to buy it, but even before I do that I am intrigued at the debate that is happening around his thesis (“beware of using Facebook just like another commercial marketing channel”) which is striking given the fact it’s coming from someone – it has been noted – who makes a living also of selling Facebook programs.

The discussion seems to be flaming around whether FB is abusing its clearly dominant position to do unpleasant things that screw up our plans in mid-air; some seem to believe that the “greater communal good” requires some degree of regulation or oversight over Facebook’ activities.

I have three things to say on this.

1. the Digital Self

Sorry, mr. crying marketeer whose users have been “stolen” by Facebook: these were NEVER your users to start with. I like McDonald’s, Avirex and American Express, but I am not theirs. If anything, they are mine: they will be in my consideration set for as long as they prove to care for me and offer me products and experiences that I value / like / have fun with.

I will not repeat here my now-too-long rant on the Digital Self (but the brave souls can click on the Digital Self category in the cloud to read all about it).

The sooner we start designing marketing programs that take into account the inherent synallagma in ANY marketing program, the better we will be: consumers have an almost infinite amount of patience and will bend over backwards in way thought impossible if we offer something they value in return, but absolutely hate freeloaders.

2. is the race over, yet?

I would be VERY careful to name Facebook the race winner: there are parts of the world that are far from here where the dominant players are called V-Kontakte or RenRen; I am not talking of interesting but doomed ideas like Hyves which never stood a chance simply because they insisted on a geographical niche that was way too small to ever allow for economies of scale to kick in.

Besides, the sustainability and monetization strategies of Facebook are yet to be proven – with all due respect, Facebook is no Google or Microsoft and, IMHO, there is no guarantee it will own a well-defined, hugely profitable franchise it can milk indefinitely as it searches for the next idea.

3. how did you not see that coming?

But my biggest criticism perhaps is this: why put all your eggs in the same basket? Why think a bunch of “likes” were all you needed? What made you think you could do away with a marketing database, opted-in in your name (not Facebook’)?

Am I alone in considering FB just another promotional channel where achieving critical mass for a program is easier than elsewhere, but NOT the home for my programs? I thought that OWNING the ultimate destination asset of a marketing program was the whole point of a well-designed strategy.

So I share MCC’ alarm at some of Facebook’ practices, but since I do not think that the solutions lie in “public oversight”  measures  I will NOT sign his petition; in fact I am not in fear of the marketing programs I design will become broken; actually, the possible obsolescence of FB in favor of some, newer, shinier toy was a key design element.

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