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Facebook: more than just a networking site?
As the fifth most visited site on the planet, is Facebook a viable marketing and advertising tool for companies feeling the pinch?
January 6, 2009 10:58 by Aarti Nagraj
A few weeks ago, in mid-December, Facebook welcomed its 140,000,000th user. That means a little less than two per cent of the world’s entire population has a Facebook page and, by extension are connected to its megalithic social network.
In addition to being a networking site, Facebook is also a marketing and advertising tool for corporations around the world. The millions of subscribers are inescapably confronted by targeted ads that appear on their own, and their friends’ profiles. Log on in Dubai and you’ll see information for holidays to Beirut or dating websites for Muslim singles; access your page from Europe and you’re bombarded with details of club nights in your nearest city. Advertising is certainly a big part of the world’s fifth most visited website.
But can Facebook be considered a serious tool for those who make their living in the marketing game? At first glance, it would appear not. Absent from the site’s incessant ad flashing are many of the world’s largest and most recognisable brands. You won’t see a Coca Cola banner, or adidas’ newest product range when you check which one of your friends has poked you. You’re more likely to see ads for services in your area than wide-reaching advertisements.
What’s more, the majority of the site’s marketing potential is used up by very small, very simply designed blocks of text. Within five minutes, and with very little technological know-how, businesses can submit advertisements for consideration by the site’s moderators. The ads will run at a daily flat rate of $1, plus 1 cent per click. Given that the lion’s share of the Internet’s unclaimed marketing real estate may soon be at a premium (it’s estimated that by 2012, internet-heavy countries like the UK will spend around GBP5.07 billion – AED27.9 billion – each year on online advertising), small businesses can’t believe their luck.
But the question remains: can Facebook be taken seriously as a marketing tool?
Well, sort of. Companies who can’t afford serious advertising budgets can enjoy a little exposure on the networking site, although the ads won’t be as targeted or as relevant as they need to be to make a significant impact on the market.
But with the credit crunch threatening to erase advertising budgets in 2009, alternative forms of advertising, like those found on Facebook, may soon become the only option for millions of struggling businesses.