If you’ve ever read through Facebook’s 4,000-word terms of service agreement (of course you have), you know that the social media giant has the right to use your “likes” and the links that you post for its marketing purposes.
Tell your friends you like something, for example, and Facebook can turn it into an endorsement for the product you’re citing on its pages.
The company sees these so-called “sponsored stories” as one more way to generate revenue and feed the demanding investor beast that its initial public stock offering has become.
One man unwittingly got caught up in that effort.
Last Valentine’s Day, 32-year-old Iowa multimedia producer Nick Bergus found a link touting a product for sale on Amazon.com. The product? A 55-gallon barrel of personal lubricant.
Bergus thought so, and so he posted the product link on Facebook with the the note, “For Valentine’s Day. And every day. For the rest of your life.”
Soon, as The New York Times details, Bergus’ post “pitching” the lubricant began popping up on his friends’ Facebook pages, along with Bergus’ name and photo.
What had happened was that Facebook’s literal-minded alogrithms had read Bergus’ jokey post as an endorsement on behalf of an Amazon.com product.
Bergus, in a blog post, says he’s both amused and annoyed by his career as “a personal lubricant pitchman.”
Heed the cautionary note in his take:
“I’m partially amused that Amazon is paying for this, but I’m also sorta annoyed. Of course Facebook is happily selling me out to advertisers. That’s its business. That’s what you sign up for when make an account.
“But in the context of a sponsored story, some of the context in which it was a joke is lost, and I’ve started to wonder how many people now see me as the pitchman for a 55-gallon drum of lube.”