Facebook Inc. (FB) teamed up with Unilever to let users donate to a clean water charity using online credits as the social network tries to convince members to make more transactions and gather information about them.
The project, called Water Works, will allow donations through Facebook credits, consumer-goods maker Unilever said today at the Cannes Lions advertising festival in France. Facebook Credits is a virtual-currency program that lets users buy items for applications such as games on the site.
Facebook shares have fallen 16 percent since they began trading last month amid concern that it will struggle to increase profit from its more than 900 million users. If sites such as the Water Works charity encourage more users to spend money through Facebook, potential advertisers may be able to identify premium users and their spending habits more easily, said Miles Young, chief executive officer of WPP Plc (WPP) agency Ogilvy & Mather.
“Facebook is starting to realize its biggest asset is its data and its customer base, and if it can monetize that, that will be the answer,” Young said in Cannes. “Then we’ll stop worrying about it being an effective advertising medium or not.”
Some advertisers are reluctant to spend with Facebook at the moment because it’s difficult for companies to determine who the “valuable” users are, who are willing to spend money and can be targeted directly, he said.
Facebook this month said it will introduce real-time bidding for advertising on its site, a technology used by Google Inc. and other Web companies to more effectively target ads to consumers. The service, Facebook Exchange, will let advertisers reach specific types of users on the social network based on their browsing history.
Menlo Park, California-based Facebook brought in $3.15 billion from advertising last year and has introduced mobile ads and other services to boost sales.
Still, a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted online from May 31 to June 4 showed a minority of users being influenced by ads. Just one in five people on Facebook have bought products because of advertising or comments they saw on the site, that poll found.
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