Friend tagging I've found is very convenient way to notify specific people within the context of a thread or discussion. I often use it to ask a friend (who many not have participated in the thread prior to the tag) what they felt about it, this is great as it enables such friends to discover content I wish them to discover (so long as they scan their notifications that is).
The incident that triggered my novel use of the tags though involves a public company, LinkedIn. I received an email from LinkedIn indicating that I was eligible for a month of "free" premium service. I already suspected that there was going to be a credit card tie in at some point and sure enough after clicking through the offer and landing on a credit card page I closed the browser tab miffed.
It upset me that they listed the offer as "free" but then still wanted my credit card, what made it worse was that in small lettering it was indicated that after the "free" month was over the credit card would begin being charged. This is a common marketing bate and switch but I absolutely abhor it. I consider it disingenuous at the best and out right dishonest at the worst, it just really got me riled up that day so I did something different.
I fired up a new status update on Facebook. In this message I detailed my gripe and when completed used the tagging feature to tag in the largest Facebook groups devoted to LinkedIn...hoping to get the official group created by LinkedIn marketing. I reasoned that tagging the group would pop my concern at the top of their wall and get at least a few hundred people to immediately see it. A fraction of those might share it.
Within minutes of posting the status message I received a response from a person claiming to work for LinkedIn! She tried to address my concerns of why LinkedIn was using that method and I told her there was no reason to do so as unless the LinkedIn technology prevents such a solution (simply enable the free month with no strings attached to a credit card for activating payment once the free period is over).
It was after I'd received the answer that I realized that I had used Facebook's group tagging in a powerful way, I had used it to broadcast to a much larger audience than exists on my actual friendlist a focused query to a specific group. In doing so I got immediate reaction from that group (LinkedIn) as they want to address customer gripes if they want their reputation to remain. Since the gripe was sent public ....there is little chance that it can be ignored or buried (as an email would easily be).
We've seen this type of power also released on Twitter as public posts by individuals with large follower counts can exert influence on brands by broadcasting. This is achieved such power for users with hundreds of thousands to millions of followers by creating the sponsored tweet industry. Influential people across many fields are able to sell sponsored tweets through their profiles to various brands and make cash. This is very popular via sites like http://sponsoredtweets.com/ and the money being made per tweet is quite impressive for the users with the larger follower sets.
However, the group tagging of Facebook allows any User to broadcast to the brand (unlike the sponsored tweet which broadcasts to the users follower set and speaks FOR a brand). Broadcasting to a brand and forcing eyes of any users of that brand that see that broadcast on the group wall to see the concern is a powerful stick to wave when one has an issue. It is also a very easily applied stick...simply find the groups for that brand and tag them in the comment! Though it is not lucrative as sending sponsored tweets it does allow a Facebook user with a small friend set to be able to amplify their broadcast such that their concerns are seen by large numbers of those that may share goods or services they care about. It's an interesting inversion of the power that sponsored tweets gives to celebrities, journalists and politicians.
I understand that there are ways for brands to hide comments on their walls and some may chose to do this but the tagging feature is still valuable to keep brands honest since the immediate friends of the person posting the gripe can be taken to the brand directly if they aren't aware of it and may be moved to join in the concern in their way.
I am going to be running a few more experiments with Group tagging in the next few months...and see how I can take further advantage of this new broadcasting feature. In many ways this feature makes the illusion of grand audience phenomena real....by allowing a user with a small actual friend list to broadcast their views to a much larger audience by using group tagging.