Will you add a brand as a Facebook friend?

Facebooklogo7 Mark Zuckerberg and the gang at Facebook have finally decided to release the hounds on advertising within their massively popular social networking site. Are you going to play ball?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or, heaven forbid, you don’t pay as close attention to the ever-changing world of online media as we do, you’ve probably heard the two recent announcements concerning Facebook:

First, Microsoft has bought a stake in Facebook’s operation: 1.6% for US$240 million. This investment values Facebook at an astonishing $15 billion. This is a huge coup for 23-year old Zuckerberg who reportedly turned down prior investment offers from the likes of Google and others. Looks like he was right to have done so.

Second, and very closely tied to the first announcement, Facebook has launched a new advertising opportunity on its service called Social Ads which will allow companies to build profiles known as Facebook Pages and have those profiles associated with Facebook members who choose to allow it. The New York Times published a story yesterday questioning the legality of the advertising, and it seems that the user backlash has already begun.

According to Facebook’s corporate blog,

  • [users] now have a way to connect with products, businesses, bands, celebrities and more on Facebook.
  • Ads should be getting more relevant and more meaningful
  • [users] now have the option to share actions [they] take on other sites with [their] friends on Facebook

That last point is both fascinating and frightening at the same time. It’s not unusual for websites to deliver ads based on what’s known as "behavioural targeting". Basically sites that do this analyze which pages of their site the user has been surfing and tries to make each subsequent ad the user sees more and more relevant.

Facebook’s model takes the notion of behavioural targeting a step further by analyzing and associating ads based on surfing, and perhaps more importantly, buying patterns outside of Facebook’s own pages.

This brings us to the question du jour… what do you think of Facebook’s new twist on web ads? Will you "connect" with products or services and let others know what you’re buying elsewhere? How do you feel about your passions and interests being the basis for ads that your friends see when they interact with you on Facebook?