over 10 years on 2008-06-01


i am seeing a new 'hack' on facebook photos cropping up more and more frequently that i think will shortly be re-purposed as an interesting marketing tool.  namely, people have begun to upload a photo of something they wish to promote (perhaps a candidate or event) and then 'tag' as many 'influential' friends as they can into the image.  the tagged photo then shows up in the newsfeeds of the friends of their 'friends' as if the photo was of the person, when in fact it is a message in support of some cause.

to be clear, the key here is that the people the cause promoter is 'tagging' in the image are not actually in the image, and have not actively lent their support to the message.  rather, the individual supporting the given cause with the image is hijacking their 'friend' to broadcast a message to the friends of their 'friend'.

this is a really terrific idea for someone looking to broadly push a message.  if you tag 20 people into a given photo with something you are promoting you can easily reach thousands of people directly in their news feed with a big splashy image and a high apparent relevance factor.

'photos' have several characteristics that make them especially fabulous marketing vehicles.  first, people love them and tend to click on them all the time.  second, they get incredible realestate in newsfeed.  third, any message put into photos has a strange automatic 'relevance' because it is attached to the name of a friend.  finally, there is a huge curiosity factor as to why their 'friend' is tagged into an image.  i am sure there are several other positives to this approach, but those are the ones that quickly come to mind.

the best thing one could do, which i have yet to see, would be to figure out some sort of marketing campaign that encourages people to take a branded message and tag their friends into it, thereby creating some sort of virality of photo tagging for marketing.

ultimately, photo tags are no different than any other sort of link.  it is going to be interesting to watch people more deeply explore this concept, pushing things like facebook photos far beyond its original intended purpose. 

of course, at the same time, facebook will likely look to deploy technology to try to control the channel.  part of the long-term challenge facebook will face will likely be finding a happy medium where people can derive economic value out of their platform (which they can tax) while keeping the communication platform useful and streamlined.  if they succeed the value is incredible, but if they fail the platform will become unusable.

for now, however, try it -- stop assuming that a 'photo' of a fried need be a 'photo' of that friend at all.  instead, consider a 'photo' simply as a piece of content that you can pre-apply to people in your network in order to easily push a message to those within two degrees.

original swl blogposts and letters 2007-2010