Freelance Advertising – Tag It

8 Aug

The evolution of social media platforms has been interesting to follow – who would have ever thought we would be so inclined to share such personal memories and conversations, intentionally or not? One aspect of social media that I find particularly intriguing is “tagging”, or linking to other nodes of a social network. It was only a matter of time before Facebook and others acknowledged existing behaviors of users – uploading photos and adding captions – and designed a more seamless solution, tagging. New facial recognition software has got so far as to even automatically detect what users are in an uploaded picture, but that’s another story.

In May, Facebook went a step beyond tagging people in uploaded photos when it allowed users to tag pages, which has significant implications for brands and companies. Not only can users tag themselves and their drunk buddies at the wild house party they went to last weekend, but they can now tag the Budweiser beers and Ray-Ban sunglasses that were such an integral part of the evening. This particular feature is clearly beneficial to brands, but what about the user? What if I could somehow financially benefit from tagging brands?

Enter unsolicited advice for social networks in regards to their business models. Imagine this scenario: you are stalking perusing through your friend’s Facebook/Google+ album from her recent trip to Milan. You absolutely adore her dress, and are thus compelled to add that particular comment: “LOVE the dress – where’d you get it?!?!” Of course your friend replies in the comment thread, notifying you of the chic boutique where she found the one of a kind item. Surely you’ve seen this exchange a time or two. Well, you can tag the girl, you can tag the brand, but what about an actual link to somewhere you could purchase the dress? What if I could tag tangible items in all of my pictures – from my sunglasses to my flip-flops and backpack – and include links to sites where you could purchase them? If Amazon could derive a few hundred million dollars of extra revenue from links of items tagged Facebook and Google+ albums, then surely they would be willing to pay a nominal fee to the users that drove those sales.

What this model proposes is a simple extension of existing behavior. What if Facebook was no longer a time and brain drain, but rather a side business?! As a user, there is minimal incremental effort that I have to expend in order to tag a particular product (note that this model calls for strong partnerships between Facebook/Google+ and online retailers), but the effort is well worth the percentage of sales I could receive for my friends/followers that follow my lead and pick up that sharp Faconnable button-down shirt. With Google+ specifically, where there is no limit to the number of followers one is allowed to have, you could imagine that trend-setters could drive significant sales given their popularity and exposure.

What is the implication for brands? I’m sure that for the most part, the dictum that any exposure is good exposure holds true in this model, but I think there are a lot of brands that might be hesitant to have so many unauthorized spokesmen. Take the previous example of the sunglass-wearing, Budweiser-drinking drunk kids at the house party; would the conservative, family company Johnson & Johnson really want its product juxtaposed to such debauchery?

It’s only a matter of time before these social networks enable users to tag specific items, but it will be interesting to see if there will be any financial return to the users.

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