The Difference between a Recommendation and an Ad

A quick thought regarding Facebook’s new Social Ads platform.

A recommendation is something you get from someone who knows something about you. They have seen an item of interest and thought that you might gain some use by it. They give their recommendation freely, knowing that it may do you some good, expecting nothing in return other than perhaps a “thank you”. Recommendations are thus social capital.

The primary reason for a recommendation is a need on the receiver’s side.

An advertisement is something you get from someone who may or may not know something about you. They have an item they want you to be interested in, and hope you might gain some use by it. They give it freely, but they do expect something in return as they are paying for this transaction. Thus they are biased, however small, to give you that ad. Advertisers will never give you what they objectively think is best for you. They’ll give you what they have. Ads are thus economic capital.

The primary reason for an advertisement is a need on the sender’s side.

Facebook cannot give recommendations as long as they accept money from advertisers which constrains the items available for placement. They are being paid to show only certain stuff…not necessarily the stuff that’s best for you, but the stuff made by the people who are giving them money.

To their credit, Facebook doesn’t seem to be using the term “recommendation”…yet.

A quick thought regarding Facebook’s new Social Ads platform.

A recommendation is something you get from someone who knows something about you. They have seen an item of interest and thought that you might gain some use by it. They give their recommendation freely, knowing that it may do you some good, expecting nothing in return other than perhaps a “thank you”. Recommendations are thus social capital.

The primary reason for a recommendation is a need on the receiver’s side.

An advertisement is something you get from someone who may or may not know something about you. They have an item they want you to be interested in, and hope you might gain some use by it. They give it freely, but they do expect something in return as they are paying for this transaction. Thus they are biased, however small, to give you that ad. Advertisers will never give you what they objectively think is best for you. They’ll give you what they have. Ads are thus economic capital.

The primary reason for an advertisement is a need on the sender’s side.

Facebook cannot give recommendations as long as they accept money from advertisers which constrains the items available for placement. They are being paid to show only certain stuff…not necessarily the stuff that’s best for you, but the stuff made by the people who are giving them money.

To their credit, Facebook doesn’t seem to be using the term “recommendation”…yet.

Published: November 7th, 2007

Hi there. So...I'm trying an experiment. I'm experimenting with product design and growth hacking strategies on a new project called What to Wear. It's a super simple service that sends you a daily email containing clothing recommendations based on the weather. My focus is to make it really useful, and it's free to sign up. Let me know what you think!