A Slap in the Facebook?

Facebook’s recent announcement of their new advertising platform – one that is better targeted to the information they have about Facebook users – has not been greeted very favorably by several bloggers who are basically suggesting this is a “sell out” of Facebookers.    Matt Ingram has a clever post noting how *annoying* this type of advertising might get and also how annoying it is that Facebook thinks you can really meet a person’s targeted information needs running ads for national brands.    Valleywag and even CNET were more blunt about this, saying that Facebook just “bastardized” it’s user base.    

Yikes – I don’t want to be a Mark Zuckerberg User Base Bastard!  

The idea that my use of Facebook means I “owe” Facebook something went out with the massive monetization of the web.  My eyeballs have value to Facebook that, as of last week’s launch of Open Social and the MS Facebook deal, appears to far exceed Facebook’s value to to me.  Unlike Matt I do like Coca Cola but I’m eventually going to go with the social network that gives me a piece of their action.  Is it greedy to ask for that? Maybe, but only about 1/1,000,000,000 as greedy as Facebook or Google. I can live with that level of greed, and I can live without Facebook, or Google, or any single online environment.  There are hundreds more where you came from, and don’t forget that you big internet players, or if I have anything to say about it you’ll become … small internet players. 

My initial reaction to the Facebook revolutionary-never-been-seen-on-earth advertising news was basically in the “so what?” category because I think this type of targeting in social network websites is overrated, and Facebook’s Coca Cola partnership is an indication I am right.   Are they seriously telling Coca Cola they are profiling for pop drinking? Youth?  Caffeine addiction?  Obesity?   That’ll allow them to filter out, what, 14 people from the  50,000,000 users of Facebook?   “Mr Coke we’ll only be running those ads on our the super targeted Coke drinking Facebooker user base of 49,999,986”. 

Hyper targeting of online advertising works extremely well when peole are searching for information about a topic, especially information related to purchasing a product.   Google’s built an empire with the profits from this approach which uses targeted pay per click advertising called Adwords (at Google search) and Adsense (at other publishing websites).    However intuition and some indications from current advertising failures suggest that Social Networking is not very fertile ground for high value advertising.    There are exceptions to this – at a recent conference I talked to a marketer of a very targeted national educational service who said Myspace offered him great ROI and a huge number of leads.   There, the demographic matchups seemed to overcome the tendency of people to simply ignore advertising while socializing.