Ethics, Social Networks and Make up

After watching Loren Feldman’s live show tonight, I’ve decided that I don’t want to bother discussing the Facebook/Robert Scoble incident. There’s nothing more to say than this – the site has terms of service and if you break them you can get your account deleted. Or in this case suspended and then reinstated. And Plaxo looks really really unethical and dishonest for asking bloggers to scrape data from Facebook on their behalf. Good luck with that auction, maybe the future users of Plaxo won’t mind turning over all of their information to skeezers.

But I digress. This post isn’t about about public social networks like Facebook or MySpace. I was following, and later joining, a conversation between Chris Brogan and Christine Lu on Twitter about closed social networks. I think they’re the future now – engaging enthusiasts in a closed community makes a hell of a lot more sense, and is a lot more economical, than spamming around on MySpace or Facebook looking for “friends”.

That’s what Benefit Cosmetics did. They asked people to join a private enthusiasts club to receive “special benefits”. No, this isn’t like the Sears thing; more like a BzzAgent thing, but on a micro level. And it was, by all accounts, a success: apply to be in the club, spread the word, get free makeup. One of the “Benefit Beauty Squad” tasks was to post videos to YouTube. Here, watch one.

The title of the video is Benefit Beauty Squad (BBS). Fair enough. I get that you’re part of some group associated with Benefit cosmetics. I’ll give you a C for disclosure.

What I don’t approve of, however, is this email that went out to the Squad:

We know you love Benefit, now it’s time to spread the word. Your Benefit Beauty Squad project for December is to write Benefit product reviews and post comments about Benefit on as many blogs, makeup web sites, beauty forums, etc… as you can.

Please note there wasn’t any mention of disclosure or respect for the communities in which Benefit asked people to essentially spam. Also attached to the directions was a list of web sites (boards, blogs, etc) where they would like to see them post. So, for all of the webmasters, bloggers and readers of the following sites — if you saw hype about Benefit cosmetics last month, you were duped:

TotalBeauty.com
Makeup Alley
BellaSugar
We Love Beauty
BeautifulMakeupSearch.com
Beauty and the Dirt
Beauty Addict
Beauty Blogging Junkie
SheKnows.com
MakeUp and Beauty Blog
You Blog Like A Girl
Deesse Magazine
Her Fab Life
Beauty Maverick
SheFinds
Hello Doll Face
Girl Paints
Glam.com
Glam Blush
Sephora
Daily Beauty
Makeup Bag.net
Face Candy
LA Story
Beauty Maven Blog
Product Girl
Fashionista
Raging Rouge
Style Goodies

Ethics? Who cares… as long as you look fabulous!