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 Van Morrison tickets. I have Van Morrison 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.
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. Van Morrison tickets? Yes. Dating sites? No. I express my love for the New York Giants. If someone targeted me with an ad for vintage jerseys so I could get a jersey with John Mendenhall or Brand Van Pelt’s name on it, that would be great. I do not need ads aimed at me flogging a mortgage or life insurance.
What I am taking about here is opt-in marketing. It’s a crock 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 Giant games and Gordon Ramsay shows on TiVo, so I can turn a 60 minute show into a 40 minute viewing, or a three-hour game into a 1 hour viewing. I’d watch the ads if they mattered to me. But for every one ad that I care about—BMW or GM—there are ten ads for stuff that I could care less about, for products I’ll never buy—Budweiser comes to mind.
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 of Facebook and the rest 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.