I normally wouldn’t pick up Wired Magazine, but the weather being what it was this past weekend in the Hamptons, I found myself peeking over a friend’s shoulder as they were reading the July 2009 issue. When I noticed that the article was about Facebook, my interest was piqued. I had to keep leaning and keep reading.
The article, “The Great Wall of Facebook,” focuses on the Google-Facebook rivalry, Facebook’s 4-Step Plan to online domination, and Google’s desire to crack the brand advertising conundrum. For the last decade Google has attempted to map out all the information in the online world by using algorithms and mathematical equations, their efforts thwarted by Facebook’s more personal approach to collecting valuable information about its users. Facebook’s ultimate goal is to use this data in order sell targeted ads all over, with very personalized—but not intrusive—messages.
After reading the article I was faced with some mixed emotions. On one hand, being in advertising, I was excited about the potential and opportunities that Facebook is able to lend to our clients and OE’s business. Facebook has literally created a “second internet” based entirely on its own servers using our user-generated data. By Facebook’s estimates, there are 4 billion pieces of information contributed by its 200 million members every month. The potential to sell targeted ads or content everywhere and make it really count is an ad man’s utopia.
Then the thought came to me that a lot of my personal information is out there in a shared public space: where I work, where I went to school, my birthday, and my personal pictures. It started freaking me out. While it’s not my first realization of this notion (I was hesitant from the start) I was a bit surprised when I read that Facebook can change the terms and conditions of its site at the company’s discretion (though, at least, not without member protest). For now, each user’s information is not owned by Facebook–but who knows how long that will last?
Another thought came to me last week when I was searching for a hair salon. I needed a cut and highlights, and targeted marketing would have been completely handy and more efficient given my set of standards. Rather than tapping into the cold mathematics of a Google search which may or may not bring results I like and may or may not be geographically desirable, a more personalized, humanized web would’ve been more practical and more efficient. The only real obstacle would be making users feel comfortable without violating their privacy. Of course, there is always the option to limit your data, but then, what would be the point?
So the whole idea of a search tool is now more complex. Perhaps Google is still the heavy weight champion—but it will be interesting to see how the evolving Facebook network moves along in a relatively untapped online brand advertising platform.
It would be nice if the two could find a way to work together to make my life more convenient and help the ad and content business become more effective, but it’s more likely that they will continue to race each other to the finish line.