2009-03-25-facebook_02.jpgWhy do people spend so much time on Facebook? It should be obvious… to communicate, meet new people, keep in touch with family and friends, and to promote and advertise your thoughts and ideas.

The computer interface takes all the awkwardness out of real life social encounters and empowers users to make risk free connections. Social networking offers the opportunity to communicate without becoming personally involved. If I do not like what you have to say or how you think I can avoid you. That is not possible with family or close friends. Users enjoy their ability to express themselves in an anonymous environment.

I see Facebook as one of the best promotional advertisement spaces available today. If maintained correctly, it can be a helpful tool to convey your message. Inevitably there will always be a lot of debate on the benefits or detractions from using Facebook, but ultimately reaping the benefits will go to the wise marketers who choose to go with the flow and use it as a productive tool to deseminate information.

They might do it wrong and they might do it right.

So far, since I have been a member of Faceboook, I have noticed that they are clearly mining my profile for what I want. A ticket-selling website pops up on the left side of my screen when I open my profile advertising Chicago tickets. I have Chicago in my profile. The only problem is that when I clicked the site, it gave me dates of concerts already performed. Hmmmm. Seems silly. But they got me to go to the site, and so now I am aware of another ticket site I didn’t know about. One step forward, two steps back.

But I also get dating site ads when I state clearly in my profile that I am happily married. Hmmmmm.

The benefit of tapping social networking, I think, is the ability of marketers to aim ads at us that we actually care about. Chicago tickets? Yes. Dating sites? No.

What I am taking about here is opt-in marketing. It’s a lie to assert that we hate ads. We don’t. We like ads, catalogs and the like that is pitching stuff that we like and care about. I watch movies and tv series on my DVR, so I can turn a 60 minute show into a 40 minute viewing, or a three-hour movie into a 1.5 hour viewing. I’d watch the ads if they mattered to me. But for every one ad that I care about there are ten ads for stuff that I couldn’t care less about, for products I’ll never buy.

As I understand it, Facebook is going to announce a new ad model that will undoubtedly leverage “behavioral targeting, as well ad the information I list in my profile. As long as we find there is no tapping of e-mail content, the lesson, I suppose, is to keep your profile and the info you put into Facebook, clean and not-too-personal.

But if Facebook or others can’t convince us…social networking will either fade, or stay something that is nothing more than what we would express in the public square, not our private rooms. And maybe there’s nothing wrong with that. The value of Facebook is how the network helps the people that use the network. If the user spends time to the extent that this goal cannot be accomplished, then the network is more so doing a disservice to the user, than servicing the user.