Facebook Strategy? Bloggers, Agencies Beware!

If you have ever been in a meeting about digital media, at some point you will have heard the words "Facebook strategy". It probably came after my other two favourite words “viral vieo”.

Now, the reason that these words are so needlessly bandied about is that marketers understand one thing – the need to reach an audience. So with any number of reports indicating that people are switching off their TVs and turning on their PCs, there is little wonder that social networks hold us all in their thrall.

As a result, we are seeing individuals, businesses and agencies developing campaigns designed to do deep-dive into the socially-networked world (check out Julian Cole’s very handy list of Facebook campaigns). These executions bring brands up-close-and-personal – often employing the mechanisms (such as “friending and un-friending”) used by Facebook as part of the engagement strategy – see the Sacrifice 10 Friends for a Whopper campaign by Burger King.

A core component of these campaigns is the concept of “co-creation”. That means that content is produced by the participant (ie the holder of the Facebook profile) and the brand and/or Facebook. But a recent change in the Facebook Terms of Service sounds a potential death knell to such projects.

As Chris Walters explains:

Now, anything you upload to Facebook can be used by Facebook in any way they deem fit, forever, no matter what you do later. Want to close your account? Good for you, but Facebook still has the right to do whatever it wants with your old content. They can even sublicense it if they want.

Split.This has huge ramifications for individuals who regularly upload photos, personal movies and so on to Facebook – after all, you will no longer be able to OWN your content. How would you feel about seeing your newborn child’s face on some advertising for Facebook? How would you like your wedding photo being used to promote a Dating application? I am sure you can see where I am going with this …

Now flip it over. How will marketers react when told by their agency that the content from a recent campaign is being used in unsanctioned ways? What happens if there is a retraction required (after all, the content remains the property of Facebook in perpetuity)? How will your brand and reputation be managed well into the future?

And what about bloggers who use a variety of applications to post their RSS feeds? Sure, like me, you may license your content under Creative Commons – but this changes everything.

This change in the Facebook Terms of Service is a significant about face in the way in which Facebook treats its members. It may be too late for the content that I ALREADY have on my profile, but I will clearly be more SELECTIVE about the content I upload in the future. Because I won’t just be uploading, I will be GIVING it away.

UPDATE: You can join the People Against the New Terms of Service Facebook Group and join the discussion with the Facebook spokesman, Barry Schnitt.

20 thoughts on “Facebook Strategy? Bloggers, Agencies Beware!

  1. Nice post, Gavin.
    This topic is something I’ve been obsessing about quite a bit today. However, hadn’t thought about the intellectual property angle as deeply as you have highlighted here.
    Ironically, I’ve started a Facebook group to try to give the company some sense of the collective concern (outrage?) out there from the site’s users.
    The group is called “I Disagree with Facebook’s Eternal Ownership Policy.” (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=49853549613) You might encourage readers to join the modern form of protest.

  2. Hi Gavin,
    This is obviously going to have big ramifications for advertisers – have there been any examples to date of how Facebook have already or intend to use this data?

  3. I think it’s sad that an application which everyone trusted to post everything and was used greatly to share information and photographs with your friends is now violating the basic right it gave you in the first place. You could share photos with your friends, now they’ll take them, make them public and make some money in the way.
    About the content that you have already posted on Facebook, I believe the only way around it may be to make absolutely everything private, so that only your friends can see it. Then, before you close your account, un-friend everybody, and just to be safe, go back, erase all your stuff and un-tag every photo there is of you. That way at least they won’t have your name.
    When looking at it from the point of view of someone trying to do a marketing strategy, I think now they’ll have to be extra careful. Brands using photographs bought from Facebook, might have to deal with a negative image due to a photograph they used without having permission of who’s in it or who uploaded it.
    It seems however, that Facebook takes it back now saying that it doesn’t plan on selling things, that it was all misunderstood. http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-10165190-36.html?part=rss&subj=news&tag=2547-1_3-0-20
    Let’s hope they’re not lying.

  4. Thanks for the link, Paola. There is still a difference between selling and using. As suggested above, would you feel comfortable having your wedding or family photos being used for a Facebook dating application?
    And what about content on your blog? If you make it freely available to your Facebook stream, it appears that your content becomes available for use by Facebook for whatever purpose they choose.
    That doesn’t sound like a misunderstanding to me 🙁

  5. Thanks, Matt. Yes, saw that and the conversation happening in the Facebook group above. I am hoping they back-off on this one. It is a really big claim that they are making.
    Given that they must have a massive amount of sentiment oriented data, surely a bit of predictive modelling would help their (Facebook’s) strategic planning!? Or perhaps, just some common sense.

  6. Great post. But this is exactly what mainstream media have been doing to content creators for the last 10 years anyway! Write a word for News Ltd, Fairfax or ACP, and they own every bit of it and on-sell it to whoever they like. Google is effectively doing it, too, by only begrudgingly admitting in its Google Image search that the picture “may be subject to copyright” … yet still serving it up for people to use as they wish (without notifying the copyright holder). At least Australia still has Moral Rights for creators, so even if you have revoked your copyright by signing up to something like Facebook, you haven’t actually given up your ability to demand how your content is attributed and distributed!

  7. Terrifying really that Facebook wuld turn against its customers for such self serving purposes! It is another reason to work out a revenue business model before you get millions of customers????? It makes more sense.

  8. I’m not a lawyer, but there’s a clause (under licenses) that says Facebook can do what you want “subject only to your privacy settings” – which surely means that if you don’t want your content viewed by anyone but your friends, it won’t be. They don’t own your life forever, at least as far as I can tell… God I hope I’m not wrong!

  9. Wondering what consequences this will have for 3’s new ‘Facebook phone’ – the INQ1.
    I was thinking of getting one as they sync quite nicely with your Facebook contacts. But nobody knows whether any of this external info gets stored on the phone or by Facebook…could they own all calls and SMS as well?

  10. Yes, that has been added in recently.
    However, a lot of people don’t even use Privacy settings and I am sure, would be surprised to see their own words, images or even movies appearing as part of a Facebook-related campaign.

  11. It seems that any content that comes into Facebook, regardless of manner of uploading, is subject to the terms of service. So, yes, photos of you, your kids, family members etc … is now available to Facebook.

  12. Very good question, Katherine. I guess that when you sync the data, that information is stored on the Facebook servers. That means they have access and permission to use it how they wish.

  13. what about the section above which states:
    “Ownership; Proprietary Rights
    Except for User Content and Applications/Connect Sites, all materials, content and trademarks on the Facebook Service are the property of Facebook and/or its licensors and are protected by all relevant IP laws and other proprietary rights (including copyright, trademark, trade dress and patent laws) and any other applicable laws.”
    Doesn’t that seem to conflict with the clause you mentioned? Which suggest that user content is not the property of facebook.

  14. There is a difference between owning and licensing … and that is the real issue:
    “You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content …”

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