Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: Facebook's Big Sell

Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: Facebook's Big Sell

Article excerpt

As the social networking site flourishes, the challenge is to turn its popularity to commercial ends.

'Facebook is more addictive than crack cocaine', or so says Spencer Steel, IT manager at Informatiq Consulting, which was one of the first UK companies to ban employees visiting the site.

Despite this and other corporate clamp downs, Facebook is a social phenomenon, with one in every five UK internet users visiting the site on a regular basis. The social network, launched three years ago by Harvard students, is now more popular in the UK than News Corp's MySpace, with 6.5m monthly users, according to the latest figures from Nielsen//NetRatings.

Having established itself as a firm favourite of UK consumers, Facebook is now turning its attention to becoming a viable option for big-brand advertisers, keen to tap into its vast user-base. Last week, it appointed Yahoo! commercial director Blake Chandlee as UK head of sales - its first employee outside the US. His role will be to build Facebook's UK sales team, working with advertisers and agencies to develop commercial opportunities on the site.

'The UK is an important market with more than 6m Facebook users, and is the third-biggest country for us outside the US and Canada,' says a Facebook spokesman. 'The UK also has one of the most active online advertising markets. We are already seeing exceptional demand from UK advertisers.'

Facebook has already made in-roads to the UK, striking partnerships with advertisers including H&M, Sky and Virgin Mobile. It is keen to develop a commercial strategy that goes beyond standard banners and buttons, and brands prepared to spend more than pounds 12,000 a month can take advantage of integrated campaigns that tap into its viral nature (Marketing, 12 June). Chandlee and his team will liaise with UK brands to create sponsored groups, where advertisers can further interact with consumers, provide special offers and become part of the site's 'fabric'.

While this is sure to prove a compelling prospect for UK advertisers, Facebook will have to work hard to establish the value of its commercial offering alongside the likes of AOL, MSN and Yahoo! 'The danger is that marketers see Facebook as just another platform to run more banner ads,' says Norm Johnston, chief executive EMEA at MindShare Interaction. 'The opportunity lies in helping advertisers create valuable, branded applications and experiences that complement the reason users visit the site in the first place. …

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