Feeds

Facebook's marketing goldmine may be crock of shite

Just add the Disappointment Widget

The essential guide to IT transformation

Several times a year I receive emails congratulating me on my age from websites. It's very thoughtful of them to do this - but then it's not often they get the opportunity to market to a genuine silver surfer, like me. You see, I'm actually 112 years old. Or 103. Or 107. And several ages in-between.

Yes, I'm one of those people who, since the outset of the web, when asked for the year of my birth, simply left it at "1900".

Although that makes me the "go-to guy" for incontinence cures, I reckon it's a small price to pay. And I'm not alone, according to a survey that reaches us via the British Computer Society.

Thirty-one per cent of users of social networking services enter false information into the sites to protect their identity, according to Emedia.

(Mind you, Emedia conducted the survey using something called RapidResearch, which it describes as "a quick and snappy online survey tool that enables highly targeted snapshot canvassing of opinion from senior managers across UK industries". So given that it was online, maybe those respondents were lying, too?)

The sample size is so small (100) to render the results worthless, but if the trend is corroborated, it will have lasting significance for Facebook, and the clutch of wannabee social networking sites.

Much of the hype surrounding Facebook - and it's tipped to be the biggest tech IPO since Google - is founded on its ability to monetise those 150 million users. For if at the cold, cold heart of Web 2.0 is a data collection and warehousing exercise, then Facebook has the most valuable database outside the Googleplex. Evidently lots of marketers agree - and activity around the Facebook API is frenetic today.

But what if that information is worthless?

It depends on what you're trying to do with it. If you're selling tangibles directly - such as concert tickets or photo prints - it's like shooting fish in a barrel. For example, iLike boasts 850,000-odd users for its widget which lets you see what concerts friends are going to, then offers you the chance to buy tickets. TicketMaster is an investor to the tune of $15m, and must be one of the best investments it's made. As a retail channel, social networking sites are good, as long as the audience is there.

But if you're looking for "market intelligence", then you're going to be sorely disappointed. The web can tell us what we already know, the bleeding obvious - people get more drunk at weekends, for example, or talk about Harry Potter books more frequently when there's a new Harry Potter book out. But if you want to infer anything more sophisticated, the Hive Mind is no help at all.

It's all quite heartening, really. The more the web utopians insist that it's a truer version of ourselves - in some marketing circles, "getting" the web is considered almost as useful as growing a Third Eye - the more we make it otherwise.

Now where's my Horlicks? ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
This is how I set about making a fortune with my own startup
Would you leave your well-paid job to chase your dream?
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.