Many in the mainstream media have written articles recently about Facebook that are helping to make it, well…mainstream. Both Newsweek and TIME have had major articles in the last couple of weeks, and here are excerpts from a couple more stories about Facebook in USA Today from the last few days. Click the title links to read the whole articles.
Since opening its virtual doors last fall to anyone with an e-mail address, Facebook has graduated to more than 37 million users, and the 25-and-over crowd is its fastest-growing demographic.
A key factor in the site’s rapid ascent: development of more than 3,000 free, third-party software applications that let Facebook “friends” trade everything from travel tips, Scrabble scores and books they’re reading to hedge fund advice via a fantasy stock exchange.
The most popular of Facebook’s 100-odd travel applications, downloaded by more than 2.6 million members since its launch by a freelance Web developer in June, is Where I’ve Been — a map that highlights places users have been to, lived in and hope to visit. The interactive map includes a smattering of facts for each destination.
Social-networking site Facebook is ramping up efforts on a major new advertising plan that would let marketers tailor ads for the millions of Facebook customers who provide a mountain of information about themselves on the site, according to major advertisers and analysts briefed on the system.
But the potential volume of ads, and their proximity to the personal content of customers, could stir privacy concerns, say tech and advertising analysts.
Facebook’s new format may display more prominent ads on the news feed — a list of updates on the activities of a user’s Facebook friends, according to those briefed on the new system. Facebook ads also currently appear as banners on the left-hand and bottom borders of Facebook pages.
Eventually, Facebook hopes to refine the system to deliver ads based on users’ interests, says Debra Aho Williamson, senior analyst at market researcher eMarketer.
Obviously, Facebook has to walk a fine line. If it does this right, it will be seen as a service, helping people find goods and services that interest them. It reminds me of David’s Bridal and its arrangements with various vendors that provide special offers to its wedding-dress customers. The feedback I heard at a recent seminar was that brides-who-had-been were thankful to David’s for “all the bonus goodies you get when you buy your wedding dress there.”
If Facebook does the advertising tastefully, in keeping with its current understated approach, it can create similar feelings among its users. It will be much better if it can grow its page views and time spent, with a light sprinkling of ads, instead of killing the golden goose with a heavy-handed mix. Better to triple the user base in the next year (which is not at all out of the question based on current growth trends) with the same advertising level than to ratchet up the advertising and slow the growth.
Technorati: Facebook, USA Today, Advertising, Marketing, travel applications, Facebook platform