This BusinessWeek article is one of many that documents the backlash against Facebook in the wake of its decision to introduce so-called social advertising on the network – personalized ads based not only on individual surfing habits and preferences but also, in theory, on the habits and recommendations of your Facebook “friends.” Author Rob Hof sees the uproar (which he admits could be a vocal minority) as an indictment of the apparent arrogance of the Facebook team,  but I see this incident as just another example of the delicate and dangerous tapdance of companies trying to market – and make money – on the Internet. The informal rules of engagement are sometimes obvious, but too often they are murky and implicit. And as with Facebook, the etiquette of a particular network can evolve as the platform grows. Despite the confusion it remains clear most online users are very protective when it comes to marketing – it’s ok to sell or pitch to them, but you’d better pick the right platform and occasion or there will be hell to pay…and ideally the ad should be personalized… and loaded with incentives. Of course, these same people occasionally cry foul when they realize their personal surfing habits are being mined and sold for marketing purposes. In short, the line in the sand is hard to find. I personally think Facebook is on the right track here – they want to find a way to make money in a way that’s relevant and tactful without alienating their users. We’ll see how it plays out.  

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