Facebook has launched a new Facebook Ads program offering three major products for advertisers: Facebook Pages, a way for businesses to build branded pages on Facebook to connect with their audiences; Facebook Social Ads, an ad system allowing Facebook users to be targeted by demographic interest, and "friend activities," and Facebook Beacons, allowing activities at sites off Facebook to flow back in.
- Facebook Pages allow
brands to have profile pages on Facebook in the same way that people have
them. (see Coca-Cola’s
ZDNet) with marketing messages, games, video, etc. When users interact
with those pages, add elements to their profiles or brands as "friends," that
information is spread virally through the Facebook newsfeeds, just as it is
today with the Facebook apps. A related program,
Insights, will offer
very specific analytics and data to marketers, in the aggregate.
- Facebook Social Ads
allow brands to use the full range of profile information to target people by
age, gender, relationship status, location, and so on. MySpace launched a
conceptually similar ad program "hypertargeting
- Facebook Beacon is a widget-like system being adopted on 44 third party partner sites (e.g., Blockbuster, Hotwire, The Knot, TripAdvisor, TypePad, Yelp, among numerous others). Activities on sites using Beacon will flow back into a Facebook user’s News Feed or Mini-Feed, allowing their friends to know some of what they did at that site. This effectively represents a way for individuals to "endorse" brands, products, or businesses on partner sites and broadcast that information back to their networks on Facebook.
On the one hand, this set of announcements represents a creative, clever, and logical use of the Facebook demographic and profile information and the Facebook platform. Beacon is sort of like Facebook apps in reverse. Both represent ways for marketers to attempt to reach consumers through Facebook’s much touted "social graph" (awful term).
Brand advertisers are hungry for effective ways into social networks and to reach their generally young user bases. The potential problem here for Facebook is that it may be moving a little quickly and may be pimping its users a bit too aggressively. Those who feel they’re being watched, used, or manipulated somehow by these ads may resent it. Privacy is a potential concern as well, though Facebook has sought to address that by using anonymous, aggregated data for targeting and reporting.
Facebook Platform was a stroke of genius, but I find that much of what now goes on at Facebook (via the apps and their adoption) qualifies as a kind of spam, even though it is pushed via my network. Clearly not all people share this view. But in my opinion, while Facebook Ads may make the site engaging and safe for brand marketers, it may start to become much less so for regular people.