Facebook has changed, and continues to change, what it means to be a “friend.” Previously we may have used other words to describe relationships such as acquaintance, classmate, coworker, and so on. However, Facebook now clumps all of these people under the heading of “friend.”
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s creator and CEO, commented that just choosing to use the word “friend” means that people are much more open to sharing personal information. If users consider everyone in their networks to be “friends,” then they are more willing to open up on the site.
Obviously what you share on the site is always up to you. You can choose to not type a post or upload a photograph. What is important to remember, however, is that no matter how you have created your friends list, Facebook is always a part of that list. That is, Facebook is also able to view everything you add to your profile and use that information as they wish.
Each user having many friends is important to Facebook because they can advertise to you through your friends. If a friend “likes” Bob’s Diner, her name and profile picture can then be used in an ad on your newsfeed. Learn more about Facebook ads and change your social ads settings here
This is essentially what is called “word of mouth” advertising, just in a new way. Traditional word of mouth advertising is telling someone about a company that you like. For example, your friend might tell you that she really enjoyed eating at Bob’s Diner. This is the best kind of advertising because someone you know has personally recommended a company. You are much more likely to try the place since a trusted person told you about it. To see how Facebook describes the idea to their investors, check out this video
Facebook labels these ads “Social Ads” and claims that companies see 50% more ad recall when their ads are “social.” So, even though your friend isn’t actually telling you to visit Bob’s Diner, because she “liked” their page, her “recommendation” appears on your newsfeed. This is great for Facebook and the companies who advertise on the site because they don’t have to rely on people actually remembering the company or telling their friends about it. Once your friend “likes” the site, she is “participating” in word of mouth advertising whenever Facebook’s algorithms see fit. This is unlike offline—eventually your friend may stop talking about Bob’s Diner, forget about it, or even stop liking it.
Friends are one of the most important parts of the Facebook model. Because Facebook is labeled first and foremost as a social networking site, it would be practically impossible to use the site without setting up a base of friends first. Unlike a site like Twitter where user A can follow user B without user B following user A, Facebook requires a reciprocal friendship. In other words, when you request to friend someone, you both become friends with one another. Beyond what it means for you to be “friends” with someone, Facebook also has its own reasons for finding friendships so important on the site.
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what's in a name?
word of mouth