Publicy and social advertising

Brian Solis, in “The Rise of Social Advertising”, wrote about the report by the Pivot team on the state of social advertising and its opportunities. The Trends in Social Advertising survey was conducted among brand managers, executives, and marketing professionals via email, blogs,Twitter and Facebook. I won’t delve into it as such a meaty article filled with lots of facts and figures is best read in its entirety.

What I’d like to share, though, is the comment I added to it. The report was focused on how businesses are using social advertising. After reading it, my thoughts began to wander in the realm of the consumer.  I think social advertising will intensify more the privacy-publicy conflict that arises every time a social network launches initiatives in social advertising. What should brands and the movers and builders of social networks should do about this? I am for publicy, by the way, but I believe it requires a process, not just a default opt in for social advertising. Here’s my complete comment:

Brian, I’m curious to know what you think of the whole publicy-privacy context and how that impacts social advertising. I think the rise of social advertising highlights this conflict even more. A lot of the major social advertising programs use tools that rely and thrive on publicy, where information/content is ‘public by default, private through effort’.

In effect, we’re living public lives online, but we have diverse selves living in different communities with varying notions of what may be shared or exposed. Moreover, our digital, online and social architectures have affordances that substantially affect shared information (e.g. persistence, replicability, searchability).

There’s a certain amount of trust we put in our social networks and tools, but this trust is based on an acceptance of the social context / contract wherein networks and technology operate. However, brands and consumers may have different expectations on how the social context is maintained. A ‘sponsored story’ makes for rich, targeted and customised content as seen by a brand, but can be perceived as a privacy fail by a consumer. It seems consumers in general have a negative perception to, if not distrust, for social advertising that are based on publicy (Facebook is famous for this, and just recently there are calls to uncheck LinkedIn’s default social advertising option).

I think that part of brands’ efforts to “…invest creativity, purpose, and value” into social advertising initiatives should be about creating awareness and understanding among consumers  on how precisely this new form of advertising works and what it requires from them. For example, even just differentiating between PII (“Personally Identifiable Information”) and PEI (“Personally Embarrassing Information) will already be helpful in addressing doubts.

Likewise, social networks should strive more to thoroughly explain to the public what social advertising is about and how they can benefit from them (and not just convincing brands). While I think publicy will be the default in the future, for a lot of communities now, user consent is still key. Simply defaulting to opt in for social advertising is easily perceived by consumers as arrogance on the part of the owners of a network, and social advertising a crass tool for monetising personal content, all of which in turn, creates wariness and distrust for any updates or initiatives that might follow.

How about you? What do you think and feel about social advertising that’s dependent on (limited) publicly shared information? Would you consent to it?

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