Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Facebook Ads- smart strategy, questionable execution

Zuckerman unveiled Facebook's anticipated ad strategy yesterday. I was pretty skeptical, I have to say, but upon reading about it, it looks like a really smart idea. In a nutshell, the strategy is to allow advertisers to leverage what Facebook is good at, and what makes it popular - namely, relationships and endorsements. So, if you and I are friends in Facebook, and I say I like some product, then this will be treated the same way as if I told my friends that I like some type of music.

My problem with this, though, is not about how smart the idea is, but rather with the execution. Let me explain. The New York Times describes the strategy this way:

"The ads expand what has been one of the most powerful features of Facebook, the news feed, where members see a list of what their friends are doing — photos from their parties, new friends, favorite bands and so on.

Facebook now will give advertisers the ability to create their own profile pages on its system that will let users identify themselves as fans of a product. Each user’s news feed will contain items like “Bobby Smith is now a fan of Toyota Prius.”

Sounds great - but here's my issue - I've been using Facebook for a few months now - granted, I'm no power user and I have a limited number of friends, but I'm a user nonetheless - and I've only once had someone say they're a fan of mine, and I've never seen this so-called news feed, which the Times calls one of Facebook's most powerful features.

So, in the interest of thoroughness, I did what any self-respecting pseudo-journalist would do - I logged into Facebook and looked for the news feed. I couldn't find it. I used the search feature and I looked for something called news feed in all the tabs - no luck.

While performing my search, I was reminded why I don't really like Facebook - the interface sucks! It is so cluttered and confused, it repels me. Compared to the social networking site that I think sets the benchmark - LinkedIn - Facebook is completely amateurish.

Now, you might be thinking that the difference is explained by the target audience and use - LinkedIn is for professionals and for business use, where Facebook is for friends and social use. Two problems with this explanation - businesspeople and friends are all people and we all have basic user interface needs and, two, business is a social activity, so basically I don't buy it.

Bold prediction: I think Facebook is going to get their lunch eaten by the company that knows how to design interfaces and organize information as well as anyone - Google. Wouldn't it be funny if Google just ran up the price tag on Facebook to stick it to Microsoft? Seems to me like Google's own social networking announcement came too quickly on the heels of their supposed loss to Microsoft in the Facebook deal for Facebook to have been anything other than a decoy. Oh, and btw, there's nothing about the good part of Facebook's ad plan that can't be copied. To borrow a term from P&G - I think Google is a PFE (proudly found elsewhere) kind of company...

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