Are Public Profiles The Next Big Advertising Channel On Facebook?

While Facebook applications are known for flashy ads that will use dirty tricks to get users to click on them, Facebook public profiles have been able to avoid having advertisements placed on them. According to AdAge article yesterday, public profiles are no longer virgin territory for sponsors. Us Weekly has successfully sold sponsorship to State Farm on their public profile.

So is the beginning of a greater trend? Probably, but as one anonymous reader pointed out to us, selling advertising on public profiles is technically a violation of Facebook’s terms of service. Specifically, “Application tabs cannot contain advertising of any kind.” That hasn’t stopped US Weekly from selling spots and I’m guessing that won’t stop many other companies from selling advertisement spots. I think Facebook’s greater concern is about ad networks creating massive amounts of public profiles for the sole purpose of posting advertisements.

For the time being, no company appears to be using their ad network to fill public profile inventory. For this program, US Weekly used the Involver platform for expanding their public profile functionality quickly. One component of their page is a built in invitation form which encourages users to “Send Page Invitation”.

This is an interesting strategy in that it takes advantage of Facebook’s app platform to recommend public profiles. With that comes some inherent restrictions and benefits. While you can’t invite an unlimited number of individuals, you can track which users clicked on an invite and what percentage of those converted into new fans.

Tracking conversions is something that Facebook doesn’t currently offer through their public profile insights tool (an application that provides analytics to public profile admins). While I’d expect that to change in the near future, it has made it for Facebook advertisers to determine the effectiveness of their advertisements.

For the time being, large media companies are going to risk selling advertising on their public profiles despite it violating . The only hope is that more aggressive advertisers aren’t encouraged to turn public profiles into a wasteland of spammy ads.

One clarification: I stated that “You can track which users clicked on an invite and what percentage of those converted into new fans.” While you can track clicks, you technically can’t verify who the user is. This means you can’t actually track individual user conversions although you can track how effective specific invites were.

Update 2
Facebook told IF, “Currently we do not restrict Facebook Page owners from having sponsors on their public profiles. But, if brands are looking to create and maintain lasting connections with people our Engagement Ads are the single best way to do that.” That means Facebook will not be stopping anybody for putting ads on their Facebook public profiles even though the developer wiki still says it’s a violation.

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