Facebook's new ad platform launched yesterday. It was positioned as a couple of different products, but really it's a single platform. Driven by the social graph, it allows companies to:
- Create advertising that propagates itself virally. When you interact with the business, or the advertisement itself, others will know.
- Create pages for businesses, brands, or public figures (like artists, musicians and writers). Now these businesses have a home on Facebook, and individuals who like and use their products have a place to self identify with these businesses. These pages can interact with their fans via the minifeed, newsfeed, and the profile box.
- Allow applications outside Facebook to interact with the social graph. The example given — that of a user adding a movie to their queue at Blockbuster, and having the Facebook circle of friends be informed — is pretty tame. Potentially users might expose their every purchase, reservation and activity via this mechanism.
It's ambitious. It's also potentially hugely invasive, as Nick Carr points out with such delicious sarcasm. Corporate minifeed's, pages and profile boxes are simply customer acquisition points the same as any mailing list. With the power to propagate across the social graph, however, these take the old concept of "word-of-mouth" advertising to a new extreme. There's a huge risk that Facebook itself could melt down in a wave of spam if these tools aren't used judiciously.