The Second Eclectic

Technology changes how we relate to God and each other

Less Coffee, More Cream

When we all first joined Facebook, we saw it as an add-on to our social lives: the whipped cream on our lattes. But as experience has taught all coffee drinkers, the whipped cream never stays as its own separate layer. In the same way, Facebook hasn’t remained a separate layer on top of our social lives. It has seeped in. And the latte is no longer just a latte. Is it diluted? Yes. Is it sweeter? Maybe.

With 1 billion users, Facebook is the largest advertising channel in the world. Since their public offering last spring, you can bet that Facebook is looking for any way to bring profits to their shareholders. Facebook’s investors want a return on their investment. Financially, it’s in Facebook’s best interest.

But advertising on the social network goes beyond sidebars and newsfeeds. Facebook is looking for ways to capitalize on what people already like. Both Republican and Democrats in the U.S. are looking for ways to turn current supporters into networking evangelists. Look for more of this. Companies will harness people to promote brands to their friends, with or without their consent.

For Facebook to make such social advertising possible, they’ve got to track the interactions between users—the people we call “friends.” The better they capture this data, the better they’ll be able to sell that power to advertisers. Facebook is already looking for patterns in the data (link). It’s to their benefit to do so.

But none of this can happen, if it doesn’t happen on Facebook—on Facebook. If friends are only sharing stuff “offline,” then Facebook can’t benefit from the exchange between friends. They need “friends” to share and comment and connect under Facebook’s supervision. You can bet Facebook is doing all it can to make sure that happens.

This is where the whipped cream comes back in.

It’s to Facebook’s financial advantage to be more than just the whipped cream on your social life. Facebook wants dibs on as much of your social life as possible. If you’ll take more whipped cream and less coffee, Facebook wins. Facebook wants you to do more online and less face-to-face, if that’s what it comes to. It wants to make sure that as many of your interactions as possible happen online, on Facebook; that way they can monitor them and monetize them.

In the process, the coffee might be a lot sweeter, but you may eventually be getting less coffee. Facebook doesn’t simply want to be a topping; it wants to be the substance.

Making Facebook profitable necessitates this move: less coffee, more cream. It’s the users who need to decide for themselves, one by one, how much cream they actually want.