Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Mixed Feelings on Facebook's new Ad platform

So yesterday at ad:tech Facebook announced its long awaited ad platform. Here's a quick recap:

New services:

  • Beacon - Beacon gives site owners the ability to integrate a user's actions on their own site into Facebook's newsfeeds. So if you have a customer who is also a Facebook user and they buy something on your site, it'll get displayed in their news feed.

  • Social Ads - The social ads tool allows you to take Beacon a step further by having these "social actions" broad casted to people outside of your customer's network on Facebook. It's also highly targeted - you can target by gender, age, location and even political affiliations.

  • Facebook pages - Now businesses can set up a page on Facebook where they can recruit fans/customers (new phrase: fansumer), and use FB as a new point of contact. The pages allow you to set up photo areas, discussion boards, a wall and even a messaging center so it's easy to keep in touch with your following. It's basically a souped up version of Facebook Groups.

  • Insight - Facebook Insight is an analytical tool that helps you measure your reach and penetration into your target market on Facebook.
I must say, it's a pretty comprehensive suite of features and it definitely shows some forward thinking on Facebook's part.

But in light of Google's OpenSocial announcement last week, I don't see this as being a killer app.

If you look at the argument I laid out in my last post, you'll quickly see how Google has the potential to cripple Facebook's ad platform. I mean, all Google has to do is get the rest of the social networks (and it's network of existing publishers and advertisers) to line up behind a new social ad platform, and then POOF, Facebook's value is greatly diminished. It becomes just another site to advertise on as opposed to a category killer like Google's AdWords.

Just as a side note, Google's AdWords is a category killer for a number of reasons. It's ease of use is just one reason, but the real value is in Google's reach (the network effect). The more publishers that serve Google's ads the more valuable the service becomes to an advertiser because they no longer have to reach out to all those publishers individually. The same will apply to any social ad platform that Google creates.

So all in all, Facebook showed some real vision due to the fact that this was a platform that had probably been in development for quite some time (definitely prior to the Google announcement). But they'll have to do a lot more if they want to protect their castle.

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