Advertising on social media is more than those segregated paid-for-spaces that display ads paid for by companies (e.g., on the far-right of your Facebook screen). This sort of paid-advertising has been shown to be so highly ineffective that some have predicted it will be the downfall of the social web. However, these predictions do not understand that the fundamental point of the social web (2.0) is that users are prosumers; they are simultaneously both consumers and producers of content. And advertising is no different. Advertisements that we simply consume worked in a consumer medium, like television. However, social media is a prosumer medium, and today we are the ones doing the advertising work of integrating corporate logos and branding into our profiles and news feeds.
Facebook’s ubiquitous “like” button reflects our modern task of self-presentation (and distinction) based on our taste in just about anything and everything, documented and compared to the various “likes” of any other visitor to your profile (and remember: what someone “likes” may not be what they actually like but what they want others to see that they like). In modern consumer culture, this collection of displayed “likes” will include corporate brands that one identifies with. This might mean clicking “like” on the Starbucks or Victoria’s Secret pages, which then becomes a part of your profile.
Advertising also becomes woven into the news stream -that digital flow of sociality that has become the nexus of public sociality on the site. Marketers have always viewed friend-recommendations as the holy grail of advertising: If someone you know and trust recommends or is simply associated with a product then you are much more likely to have a favorable opinion of and perhaps consume that product. Facebook helps brands to achieve just this using tactics more clever than just the “like” button. For instance, many of us have seen advertisements that give you, say, 10% off of something if you create a Facebook status update or a tweet about the product or service. Many of us have noticed these status updates in our Facebook friend stream or Twitter feed. These are more than just commercials, but are statements by people we know and perhaps even respect.
This is prosumer advertising: we are both the producers and consumers of advertising messages (similar to wearing a hat with the “Nike” logo on it). Social media is built on prosumer labor (what would Facebook be without our efforts?) and paid for by advertising, so it makes complete sense that this advertising will be of the prosumer sort. Will we continue to see more new ways in which we turn ourselves and our socialization into various advertisements?