Simon Dumenco has a compelling article up at Ad Age about why Facebook might not be the online panacea some marketers try to sell it as.
In fact, it’s not that great as an advertising platform, and has a tight line to walk—in my opinion one that pulls between what people want and what marketers want in opposite directions.
…people want to do their own weird, idiosyncratic things (that are not advertiser-friendly or family-friendly) on social-networking sites. They’re generally not looking to shop or bond with brands or otherwise serve as sponges for marketing messages.
Facebook has gotten around the social-media advertising-engagement problem somewhat by being much more ubiquitous than any other social-media product ever. Research firm Webtrends released a report earlier this year showing that click-through rates for Facebook ads are well below industry averages and actually fell from 2009 to 2010 — but Facebook’s advertising revenues continue to rise just because Facebook continues to grow and grow. In other words, advertising that’s subpar in performance can still potentially achieve scale not only because of how many people are on Facebook but how much time they spend on it.
Despite the amazing numbers, I still think that Facebook’s house of cards will fall. Either advertisers will pull out because they aren’t getting any real, honest to goodness results, or people will pull out because they feel more and more like the sausages being cranked out at the factory.
Facebook is faced with escalating self-contradiction. This is why they had to react so quickly to Google+ It wasn’t the numbers. It’s that people *like* it. They really, actually feel refreshed—and Google won’t need to worry about advertising revenue for a long time.
As for the numbers? Let’s not forget that while they are astronomically larger than MySpace (or geocities, tripod, AOL) ever was, they have the benefit of having built this “community” of theirs at the tipping point of Internet ubiquity.
Like all the centralizing powers before it, the more Facebook tries to corral the web, the more the web will slide through the fence-posts.
The only lasting exception to this rule has been Google. Why is that? Because it exists to send people away, not to hold them tight.