Posted by: Burth Helm on October 12, 2007
Or rather, you had your Facebook profile picture projected in front of several hundred advertisers last night as they knocked back drinks here in Phoenix, Arizona.
It’s the annual meeting of the Assoc. of National Advertisers. This year Facebook has both the cash and the ad-money jones to sponsor the opening cocktail party. On an array of nine plasma TVs at the outdoor patio party, Facebook called out how its users declare their favorite brand. “There are 432 user-created groups about Dove,” one slide read. “16,293 users mention Levis in their profiles” read another. It also put up thumbnail images of a handful of users (including the above names) along with the comments these users had made about brands. Courtney R.’s, for instance, wrote “I Love Pepsi, WHOOO!”
To me, this highlighted the two biggest hurdles Facebook will have monetizing the site. First, note that Facebook and the advertisers have no control whatsoever what Eddie W., Natalie G. et al. write and what groups they decide to create and join (If anything, this stuff the manifestation of good marketing work the brand did elsewhere). So why should advertisers pay Facebook much money beyond display ads if a) these groups already exist and b) there’s no guarantee any users will join their group?
Second, I’m not sure that users will appreciate knowing that Facebook is mining their profile pages to help sell to advertisers. This is different than when Google links words up to a search term. People are personally connected to their profiles. Would Courtney R. still say “I Love Pepsi, WHOOO!” if she knew Pepsi was mining her profile to market to her? And would she still love Facebook if she knew it was throwing her photo up at an advertiser confab? Perhaps, that could dampen her affection for both brands. The closer marketers get to interacting so directly with consumers, the higher the risk they take a misstep and turning them off. We’ve got a Schroedinger’s Cat problem, here.