Friday, December 7, 2007

Beacon No More? Hardly

Just before Facebook announced its new advertising system, Beacon, I had written a post discussing how companies could leverage customers' social networks by letting them opt-in to place advertising on their social networking sites, using Facebook as an example.

After Facebook and Beacon have taken such a beating this week, have I changed my stance? No. I think there are definitely opportunities for Facebook to adjust their advertising model to both integrate advertising smoothly into their users web pages, as well as to increase Facebook's revenues in order to justify its $15 billion valuation.

Namely, if Facebook wants to make money off of their users personal data, then users should be able to share the wealth.

My previous example used an on-line banking example. Once someone purchased or consumed a banking product, they could have the option of including an ad (banner or text) on their Facebook page for X amount of days in exchange for an entry to win an IPod, or something to that effect.

This type of advertising is even more relevant than Beacon, because the consumer chooses the ad that fits into their lifestyle, and has a good chance of fitting into their networks probably similar lifestyle. Also, Facebook would receive a commission from the retailer for allowing their ad to be placed within the application.

Another example involves one of my favorite sites, (TDP). I am a TDP evangelist because I am so impressed by their customer service, the site's ease of use in comparison to competitive food journaling sites, and the overall experience I've had there. Suppose I'd like to include a banner ad TDP has into my Facebook page? I would gladly do so freely for a couple of days, Facebook gets a commission, and my network knows that I endorse this site. I suppose I could just post how much I like TDP to my wall, but this is simply another, more formal, option.

Would some people exploit this advertising model simply to make some money or win a prize like the first example? Probably. But I think there are other people who love certain brands and are willing to promote them for free.

I think Facebook's desire to have relevant information available to users is worthwhile. My suggestion is just an alternative the big-brother quality of the old Beacon model, to one of user participation and acceptance.


Updated: I've been reading more about Facebook's advertising options and I think what I have been suggesting in this article most closely resembles the Social Ads that Facebook already offers. These are contextual ads based on user preferences. However, if I understand correctly, and advertiser gets to place the ad based on a user's interaction with them (push marketing). It's not the user who specifically decides to place the ad (opt-in) on behalf of the advertiser.

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