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Getting down to business

Money, money, money!  It’s all we seem to talk about these days. But don’t worry guys, Facebook could save us from…

By Alexis Stoymenoff , in Face Value: Social networking and our generation , on February 2, 2009 Tags: , , , , , ,

Money, money, money!  It’s all we seem to talk about these days.

But don’t worry guys, Facebook could save us from the depression.

The online network’s top execs put on their suits and ties last week for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where they showed international experts just how good they could be for business.

We’ve seen how their online cross-promotions and marketing tricks are changing the face of advertising.  These campaigns are really effective, but why stop there?  It’s about time Facebook approached the elite of the business world and said “Hey, let’s get serious.”

At the forum, the company was pushing its new real-time polling system, which can give companies a plethora of consumer data in the blink of an eye.  It’s like a massive online focus group, and it gets instant results.

CNN interviewed Facebook’s marketing director Randi Zuckerberg, who seemed happy with the response in Davos:

“When you look at the audience you can really see this eureka moment in their eyes when they see 2,500 responses come in three minutes,” she said. “It’s been really interesting to see how Facebook users are guiding some of these discussions and the way that global leaders are now looking at this as a place for insight and to get a real time pulse.”

Good for Facebook.  They’ve found another way to build on their empire and create lucrative opportunities for businesses around the world.

As a consumer, however, I find some of this a bit disconcerting.  The UK’s Telegraph reported more thoroughly on this new system and it appears that the market research tool takes advantage of users’ private details and messages.

My first reaction to this article was “How dare they!?”  Then I remembered that they’ve been feeding off of users’ online conversations for a while now.  If you post a message on your wall about spring break, you’ll start seeing vacation ads on the side of your browser.  As soon as your relationship status changes to “engaged“, advertisements for bridal shops and florists take over the screen.

Google’s Gmail does the exact same thing.  Their AdWords software uses “contextual targeting” to pinpoint users who type product keywords in emails or web searches.  This, to me, is even scarier than being targeted based on public wall posts.  I hoped at least my emails were private…guess not.

The one small comfort I take from this sneaky business is the hope that maybe it will help provide an extra little boost for the economy.  By accepting Facebook’s antics and sacrificing my personal privacy, let’s just say I’m doing my part.

*Other links: Check out TechCrunch’s response to the Telegraph article.