Facebook plans to overhaul its pages and methods of advertising in an effort to turn the massively popular social networking site into a profitable connection machine -- hoping that agencies creating Web presences for companies will use them to promote brands and sell products. By maturing its fan pages and bonding more deeply with businesses and marketers, Facebook hopes to turn a profit and prove it is more than just a time-waster or a money-hole like YouTube.
First off, Facebook is revamping its fan pages today to allow companies to sell more directly to the user. Fan pages are established by companies and are used to build a customer base and update fans on product information. The revamped fan pages will have a similar feel to an ordinary user profile, complete with tabbed pages designed to disperse information into more specific categories. This new tactic opens avenues for businesses and marketers to attract fans and rope them into buying goods through Facebook.
Fan pages are currently free, so it's expected that with this overhaul, Facebook may begin charging businesses for a condensed area of more interactive content and tailored advertisements. Though it's just speculation at this point, having businesses pay for better fan pages would be an excellent way for Facebook to reap in some dough.
Another development is Facebook's evolution of its Facebook Connect service -- the OpenID-esque Web-wide sign-on system. By pairing Facebook Connect with the advertisements that are tailored to a user's profile information, possibilities arise of turning Facebook Connect into a social ad network.
The wider flung Facebook Connect's net, the more opportunities for shilling goods to open-armed consumers. Imagine using Facebook Connect to sign onto Expedia.com. Now both Facebook and Expedia know the variety of trips you like to take. The ads flickering on your Facebook homepage all resound with your preferences, and Facebook reaps some valuable ad real-estate space by partnering with an outside business.
This method of advertising may be intrusive, and has landed Facebook in trouble before. The Beacon episode -- wherein user information was beamed across the Internet for everyone to see -- exposed an ugly side to social networking, and once user info-tailored ads started appearing, privacy concerns naturally arose.
One downfall of this program -- though brilliant for investors and the company's profile -- is that Facebook could quickly turn messy and riddled with advertisements, just like MySpace. As MySpace grew -- before Facebook tore off its social networking crown -- it became a splatter painting of advertisements where user profiles were hidden beneath big corporate bucks. Quite simply, it cheapened the site and made it ugly. What's more, it pushed users to the sleek streamlined Facebook with its relatively benign and discreet ads. However, the more Facebook goes for the gold, the more likely all that is to change, and the user experience so heralded by fans and companies alike could turn into a free-for-all that reeks of corporate greed.