The video: Facebook's Marketing Solutions team on Tuesday unveiled a new advertising product that will turn a user's mild interest in coffee, for instance, into an active endorsement seen by his friends. With "Facebook Sponsored Stories," if a user "likes" a CNN story or "checks in" to their local Starbucks on a service like FourSquare, those status updates could appear as ads for the CNN site or the coffee giant on the Facebook pages of friends. (Watch a video explaining how "Sponsored Stories" will work, below.) The idea is to automate and maximize word-of-mouth marketing.
The reaction: It's a brilliant corporate idea," says Kashmir Hill in Forbes. "Organic advertising for companies. A payday for Facebook." Too bad users are going to "freak out" about privacy issues and the fact that they're giving free, involuntary endorsements. Actually, some users might like it, says Laura Feinstein at PSFK. "Instead of having seemingly random and sometimes offensive ads pop-up on their screen," they'll be seeing ads related to their friends' interests. Nice try, says Helen A.S. Popkin at MSNBC. "Sponsored Stories" isn't about doing users any good, it's about Facebook making money. But this could backfire. "In its ongoing attempt to monetize the word of mouth," Facebook may go too far down the spam-filled road MySpace took and leave itself vulnerable to a new rival with a "cleaner platform." Learn more about "Sponsored Stories":