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Facebook Declares New Era for Advertising


As I write, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is announcing its long-awaited ad strategy. One piece is Beacon, a system that will let the social network?? members reveal their purchases, eBay product postings, and other things they??e done on some 40 Web sites (so far) off-Facebook and have them appear on their profiles. That ultimately can provide advertisers with information to target ads to just the people most likely to be interested.

You can?? accuse Zuckerberg of modesty. In introducing Facebook Ads, he declared that ??he next hundred years will be different for advertising, and it starts today.?Since a colleague in New York is the one attending the Facebook event, for now I’m depending on coverage from others, in particular TechCrunch, which is liveblogging the event. But here’s the gist from Facebook’s release, with the full version after the jump:

Today, Facebook Ads launched with three parts: a way for businesses to build pages on Facebook to connect with their audiences; an ad system that facilitates the spread of brand messages virally through Facebook Social Ads™; and an interface to gather insights into people’s activity on Facebook that marketers care about.

Advertising messages will gain distribution through what Facebook has termed the “social graph,” the network of real connections through which people communicate and share information. When people engage with a business’ Facebook Page, that action will spread information about that business through the social graph.

This enables advertisers to deliver more tailored and relevant ads to Facebook users that now include information from their friends so they can make more informed decisions.

Here's the release, followed by analysis as I get it:

Facebook Unveils Facebook Ads

60 Leading Consumer and Internet Brands Announce Participation in New Ad System

NEW YORK — Facebook Social Advertising Event, Nov. 6, 2007 — Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg today introduced Facebook Ads, an ad system for businesses to connect with users and target advertising to the exact audiences they want. Through Facebook Ads, these users can now learn about new businesses, brands and products through the trusted referrals of their friends.

“Facebook Ads represent a completely new way of advertising online,” Zuckerberg told an audience of more than 250 marketing and advertising executives in New York. “For the last hundred years media has been pushed out to people, but now marketers are going to be a part of the conversation. And they’re going to do this by using the social graph in the same way our users do.”

The keynote opened the Facebook Social Advertising event, which also featured senior executives from landmark partners including Blockbuster, CBS, Chase, The Coca-Cola Company, Microsoft, Sony Pictures Television and Verizon Wireless. More than 60 major consumer and Internet brand partners were highlighted at the launch of Facebook Ads.

Today, Facebook Ads launched with three parts: a way for businesses to build pages on Facebook to connect with their audiences; an ad system that facilitates the spread of brand messages virally through Facebook Social Ads™; and an interface to gather insights into people’s activity on Facebook that marketers care about.

More than 100,000 Facebook Pages Launch Today

Zuckerberg detailed how Facebook Pages allows users to interact and affiliate with businesses and organizations in the same way they interact with other Facebook user profiles. More than 100,000 new Facebook Pages launched today covering the world’s largest brands, local businesses, organizations and bands.

“The core of every user’s experience on Facebook is their page and that’s where businesses are going to start as well,” explained Zuckerberg. “The first thing businesses can do is design a page to craft the exact experience they want people to see.”

Just like a Facebook user, businesses can start with a blank canvas and add all the information and content they want, including photos, videos, music and Facebook Platform applications. Outside developers have created a range of applications to enhance Facebook Pages, such as booking reservations or providing reviews of restaurant pages, buying tickets on a movie page or creating a custom t-shirt. Companies launching applications for Pages include Fandango, iLike, Musictoday LLC, OpenTable, SeamlessWeb, Zagat Survey LLC and Zazzle.

Distribution through the Social Graph

Advertising messages will gain distribution through what Facebook has termed the “social graph,” the network of real connections through which people communicate and share information. When people engage with a business’ Facebook Page, that action will spread information about that business through the social graph.

Users can become a fan of a business and can share information about that business with their friends and act as a trusted referral. Facebook users can interact directly with the business through its Facebook Page by adding reviews, writing on that business’ Wall, uploading photos and in any other ways that a business may want to enable. These actions could appear in users’ Mini-Feed and News Feed, Facebook’s popular products that allow users to share information more efficiently with their friends.

Unique Ads with Social Actions

“Social actions are powerful because they act as trusted referrals and reinforce the fact that people influence people,” said Zuckerberg. “It’s no longer just about messages that are broadcasted out by companies, but increasingly about information that is shared between friends. So we set out to use these social actions to build a new kind of ad system.”

Facebook’s ad system serves Social Ads that combine social actions from your friends – such as a purchase of a product or review of a restaurant – with an advertiser’s message. This enables advertisers to deliver more tailored and relevant ads to Facebook users that now include information from their friends so they can make more informed decisions. No personally identifiable information is shared with an advertiser in creating a Social Ad.

Social Ads can appear either within a user’s News Feed as sponsored content or in the ad space along the left side of the site.

Insights about Brand Presence and Promotion

Facebook gives marketers valuable metrics about their presence and promotion on Facebook. Facebook Insights gives access to data on activity, fan demographics, ad performance and trends that better equip marketers to improve custom content on Facebook and adjust ad targeting. Facebook Insights is a free service for all Facebook Pages and Social Ads.

Protecting User’s Privacy

Facebook has always empowered users to make choices about sharing their data, and with Facebook Ads we are extending that to marketing messages that appear on the site. Facebook users will only see Social Ads to the extent their friends are sharing information with them.

For more information about Facebook Ads, please visit www.facebook.com/ads.

I can certainly see the appeal of moving advertising to a more social realm in which people who genuinely like a product can, almost passively, serve as brand ambassadors. I mean, look at the millions upon millions of branded T-shirts people wear, turning themselves into human billboards.

I'm not yet convinced that such social ads are the entire future of advertising (though perhaps it's unfair to ascribe such views to Facebook strictly from an event that, after all, is intended to whip up enthusiasm over the new system). I wonder if there will be diminishing returns if Facebook members' news feeds end up resembling movies full of paid placements. Any of my "friends" who post too many status updates that look like spam are going to get unfriended in a hurry. Or if they all end up doing it too much, I might go to the trouble of using another social Web service.

Still, assuming Facebook provides adequate controls on exposure to marketing messages, "conversational" or "social" or otherwise--and I won't know that until I try it out myself--this could be a step in the right direction for advertising, both for marketers and for the rest of us.


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