Yesterday morning when I did my usual jaunt out to Techmeme, I was bowled over by the overwhelming amount of news about Facebook. More than 1/2 the page of Techmeme was populated with stories written about Facebook's announcement of all its new "Ad" offerings. From allowing companies to have their own pages, to the new "beacon", the blogosphere was swirling with different perceptions on what all this meant.
Later on in the day I co-hosted the Daily Search Cast with Danny Sullivan, and we got to talking about all this bally-hoo about Facebook again. I really agreed with Danny, all this attention for what? Really now - Facebook is redefining the advertising medium? That's really a stretch. Didn't search do that first?
When Facebook first launched it was a "darling" in the tech industry because if it's exclusivity. It catered to high school and college students specifically, there were no ads and it was a lot "cleaner" than what you are presented with now. Facebook stood out because it wasn't commercialized. Members joining Facebook were the younger folks who were abandoning their MySpace profiles because of the mass influx of "adults" into their former playground and it's commercialization.
With yesterday's announcements, Facebook becomes more like MySpace and Google, and perhaps takes a bigger step towards commercialization than MySpace does. So what does that do for all those of the younger set, trying to find a network that isn't insanely commercialized, and overflowing with "adults" at the moment the announcement comes through "Brands" can have pages?
Doesn't it make you wonder, if another social network pops up and caters to this crowd and promises them "exclusivity" to their "group", would they abandon Facebook? Interestingly enough, I think those who've grown through college with Facebook, probably won't abandon it, but high school juniors, seniors and new college students are the fast adopters of the "new" and "hip" - it wouldn't take much to pull them away. A new network promising what Facebook once did, wouldn't have much of a problem snagging up these new "kids".
Facebook does have it's openness to new aps being developed to work with its structure, but MySpace and other networks are working towards that too. So what's going to separate Facebook from MySpace these days? Not a heck of a lot, once MySpace opens up it's own "walled garden" to application developers there's not a heck of a lot of difference anymore.
Lets' take a look at what Facebook posted in their blog yesterday:
"First of all, what's not changing:
- Facebook will always stay clutter-free and clean.
- Facebook will never sell any of your information.
- You will always have control over your information and your Facebook experience.
- You will not see any more ads than you did before this."
I really had to laugh at these bullet points.
- Facebook clutter free? I personally find it just as cluttery as MySpace.
- Facebook will never sell any of your information? Umm what about this Social Ads thing to target ads towards me? Isn't that selling my information to advertisers on the Microsoft Network?
- You will always have control over your info and experience? Ummm can I turn off the ads? No, I can't so what control do I really have?
- You will not see any more ads than I have before? When Facebook first started, I didn't see ads at all - so what does that tell you?
Don't get me wrong, I know Facebook has to monetize it's platform. They have to be able to pay employees and live up to the Web 2.0 lifestyle. Totally understandable, and they would be fool hearty not to capitalize on the audience they have acquired. But don't think your audience is stupid and try to snow them, come one!
Yesterday's announcements created cheers from advertisers just salivating to "get into" the Facebook network in a more prominent way. However, on the flip side, those announcements weren't anything the members of Facebook are cheering for. Would you really want to make "Preparation H" or "Clearasil" your friend on Facebook, if they had a page? You laugh, but that's what Facebook has opened up for advertisers. Just like MySpace has done, you can make movies your friend, businesses your friend and even publications your friend.
“Once every hundred years media changes," Zuckerberg toughted. "The next hundred years will be different for advertising, and it starts today." I think someone really needs to point Zuckerberg to everything Google, Yahoo and MySpace did before Facebook. Search changed the media advertising long before his announcement, he could be "improving" on the system, but the big change already happened.
Perhaps there is a bright spot in all of this. The one thing Facebook users can look forward to with Facebook selling their information to advertisers - they get to interact with a nifty Sprite Sip character. ;)