Forget Direct Mailing. Direct Friends!
Lists of e-mail addresses and telephone numbers used to be the way that companies bought direct lines of communication with target customers. Now it looks as though Facebook and Twitter are the next targets on marketers’ agendas. It has recently come to light that uSocial, an Australian marketing company, has figured out the next big way to capitalize on social media: selling friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter. The service launched just last week and is not necessarily cheap. The company charges $727 for searching out people interested in a company’s industry or product and adding 5,000 friends, the maximum number of friends allowed by Facebook.
Although uSocial does not disclose to “friends” that they are working for a company, it’s not necessarily clear that what they are doing is spamming. After all, they state that users willingly choose to add them or not. We can’t help but think back though, to Burger King’s now infamous Whopper Sacrifice campaign that gave away free whoppers to anyone willing to ax 10 friends from their friend list. The campaign was since put to a halt after Facebook declared it against their user policy. It is yet to be seen if Facebook will undertake similar actions against uSocial.
USocial does admit on its FAQ page that while there has been controversy surrounding their tactics, what they are doing is not illegal.
What do you think? Is this a breach of transparency or a proven ROI?
Update : As it turns out, Facebook has issued a reminder warning that users trying to buy friends could have their account deactivated. In a statement they said, « we’d caution any Customer of their service that their account and investment is in jeopardy. » The problem is, uSocial signs into Facebook using normal user accounts and passwords. Their clients, of course, are kept strictly confidential.