In the midst of the privacy concerns and backlash over Facebook’s Beacon service, I thought of a great idea for a Facebook application: the Amazon “Share the Love” friend referral program.
(Amazon created the Share the Love program in 2002. Whenever you placed an order, Amazon offered to email your friends with a discount offer of 10% for the same items you just bought. If any of your friends used the discount, your account would also be credited with that same amount for a future purchase. You had full control over whom would receive the emails, and which products would be mentioned. Unfortunately the program was closed down somewhere around 2005.)
The focus on Beacon is around the fact that Facebook is automatically sharing this user activity without their consent. Facebook should definitely be called out on this until they fix it. But if you step back, the larger issue is that we’re still talking about ads. Better targeting based on demographics and user activity will make the ads slightly more effective, but still not that interesting.
Instead, consider the combination of your Facebook friends network with the Amazon Share the Love program. Now if I buy a DVD on Amazon, instead of seeing that “BrianC just bought the Bourne Ultimatum DVD”, my friends would see “BrianC just bought the Bourne Ultimatum DVD. Click here to save 10%.”
Now with the discount, my friends have a reason to pay attention to these updates. Amazon benefits as well from increased sales.
Now if only Amazon hadn’t canceled the Share the Love program. I can’t find a definitive source on this, but it looks like it closed down in 2005. I’m sure there are other affiliate programs like this that could be explored. Still to be determined is whether this violates Facebook’s terms of service.