Will Facebook's new ad strategy turn the social network into an ad network for corporate America? I hope not. A new advertising strategy could have Facebook users getting far chummier with marketers than ever before.
As part of a new Facebook advertising scheme, businesses, bands, and even celebrities are invited by Facebook to have their own custom-designed Facebook page and profile. Facebook is also allowing these businesses, who first must get consent from you, to display your photo and profile next to ads which it will blast out to your Facebook friends.
Facebook sees this as a more direct way for users to connect with specific brands or businesses, assuming ads (which will now tailor to your interests) weren't doing the job in the first place.
Here is an example of how it would work. Suppose you do check out the Facebook Page of a major restaurant chain and decide to write a review of it. Next, you'll be asked if you'd like to share your review with your friends. If you agree your Facebook friends will receive a Facebook message alerting them you reviewed the restaurant and invite them to read it. Now, if you've agreed, Facebook is also allowing the restaurant to launch an advertisement with your profile and picture smack dab next to it.
The commercial hooks go even deeper. Facebook is working outside of Facebook with companies like Blockbuster to hook you back to pitching products on Facebook.
Say you visit Blockbuster.com and add a movie to your rental queue, now thanks to Facebook you will see a message asking whether you want to tell your friends about Blockbuster.com and your movie rental. If, for some odd reason, you want everyone to know that you just rented the first five season of Sex in the City from Blockbuster.com you can do so.
This puts Facebook users in a weird place. Some may be more than happy to be walking billboards championing products like Coca-Cola to all their friends. Some may see it as an annoying even to be asked to do it. My question is how will your friends feel about your eagerness to share ads with them?
I'm also curious why there isn't more in this for Facebook users. If I'm promoting products, driving traffic to commercial Web sites, and potentially inspiring sales - where is my cut? After all, there are loads of affiliate advertising programs that pay you money for driving traffic to a commercial site. Amazon's Associate program is a good example.
At the very least this new Facebook offering will have a lot of Facebook users rethinking who they really want as their Facebook friend.