One Facebook User’s Tale Serves As A Warning About Sponsored Stories

By Julie D. Andrews 

A Twitter retweet may not be an endorsement, but a Facebook like most certainly is, and some users are finding that out the embarrassing way.

One man was chagrined when his Valentine’s Day tomfoolery turned into an endorsement for personal lubricant, in the form of ads with his beaming likeness populating his friends’ Facebook pages, The New York Times reported.

Oh, you didn’t know? Well, it turns out that many users have been caught unaware. See, you agreed to partake in the marketing plan when you agreed to the terms of service that allowed you to create a Facebook account.

With the social network’s sponsored stories now appearing on Facebook’s mobile apps and users’ news feeds, anything you bestow a like on can be magically turned into an advertisement. Marketers can only see this as a boon — an exceedingly cheap way to create ads (with nary a creative to pay).

So when you click to enter the chance to win, like your favorite breakfast cereal, or mention any brand or product, the algorithm is seeing big green dollar signs (sorry, no kickbacks for you).

Some users are not amused. At least one filed a class-action lawsuit in California as a backlash to the new marketing tactic, which the social network announced last month that it will settle out of court. The 39-year-old plaintiff clicked the like button on a French course by Rosetta Stone and resented being used in an ad.

In its help center, Facebook writes:

Because sponsored stories are just stories from the news feed, you cannot opt out of them.

As for our red-faced Casanova and his pleasure-seeking snafu, well, he said on his blog:

I was mildly annoyed, though not to the point of deleting my Facebook account or throwing a hissy fit.

And therein lies the golden truth: Some users will get miffed as Facebook experiments with new ways to generate ad revenue. Most, though, hooked as they are, will accept what they see as mild inconveniences to continue to be able to find regular doses of happiness on the social network for free. Facebook knows full well that pleasure-making is big business, and it’s banking on users to stay — as long as the pleasure outweighs the pain.

Readers: Does this marketing plan bother you, or are you cool with it?

Image courtesy of Nick Bergus.