Facebook's marketing goldmine may be crock of shite
Just add the Disappointment Widget
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? ®
I like the way people laugh at facebook users like they are hermits unable to leave their desk day or night, with comments suggesting they should get out more?!
The reason alot of people use facebook is because they have ALOT of friends, and they go out regularly and enjoy a full social life. Facebook just helps share activities and life-events with loads of your friends - which done on an individual basis would take an age!!
Granted - it's good for the likes of data-whores / hermits / stalkers / pimps (well you gotta get payed dawg) / etc too - but the majority of people on my network are just party people and family who are normally always hung over, uploading pics of weekend expeditions to random places, or still drunk......... so stop your condecending "facebook==freak" views, your as bad as the people who say that exact shit about ALL IT people (which if your reading el-reg you should be!).
How about a licence for personal info
Collect and store verified accurate PI via a secure third party collector. Those wanting to use the data wouldn't be able to actually access the raw data but simply interogate it. Individuals and/or companies etc licence their PI to the information holding agency for named purposes and/or a limited time.
Of course - thats all a bit organised and logical for web 2.0
Re: Silver Surfers...
They would have difficulty working out my age from that of my friends (especially from what LJ terms 'friends'). I'm almost 52, and the median age of my friends is around 32 (the mean is slightly lower). I do wonder why some of them bother, though, one in particular wants to ensure that you are "over 18" but asks for full date of birth to 'verify' that (why they think that under 18's lie less about their DoB than with a simple "I am over 18" checkbox I don't know).