The Facebook Announcement

Erick Schonfeld has just begun to live blog the Facebook announcement where Mark Zuckerberg has just taken the stage. I will be providing coverage and analysis of the event on this blog over the coming 30 minutes. Hopefully there will be some exciting news in the announcement! It appears as though Schonfeld’s connection is not working so well so hopefully we get an update soon. I definitely wish I could have been there covering the event.

One of the first things mentioned by Zuckerberg is a partnership with eBay on project Beacon. I previously covered project beacon and questioned whether or not Facebook will soon enough know too much about us. Based on Zuckerberg’s statement it appears as though your friends will soon know when you have bid on something or post something for sale.

Whether or not Techcrunch is live-blogging, Facebook has put out their official announcements. According to their release:

Facebook Ads includes three parts: a way for businesses to build pages on Facebook to connect with its audience; an ad system that facilitates the spread of brand messages virally through Facebook Social Ads™; and an interface to gather insights into people’s activity on Facebook that marketers care about. On other websites, Facebook Beacon provides a way for users to choose to share their activities with their friends on Facebook. Landmark partners are implementing the fullest set of offerings from Facebook Ads.

The 12 partners are: Coca-Cola, Verizon, Blockbuster, CBS, Chase, Sony Pictures, CondéNet (Epicurious.com and flip.com), Crest Whitestrips, Dove Cream Oils®, Herbal Essences, The New York Times Co., and Saturn.

In addition to their Social Ads partners, Facebook has announced the following partners on their Beacon project: eBay, Fandango, CollegeHumor, Busted Tees, iWon, Citysearch, Pronto.com and echomusic. Additional partners include Travelocity, AllPosters.com, Blockbuster, Bluefly.com, CBS Interactive (CBSSports.com & Dotspotter), ExpoTV, Gamefly, Hotwire, Joost, Kiva, Kongregate, LiveJournal, Live Nation, Mercantila, National Basketball Association, NYTimes.com, Overstock.com, (RED), Redlight, SeamlessWeb, Sony Online Entertainment LLC, Sony Pictures, STA Travel, The Knot, TripAdvisor, Travel Ticker, TypePad, viagogo, Vox, Yelp, WeddingChannel.com and Zappos.com.

The press release provided more information regarding Social Ads:

More than 100,000 Facebook Pages Launch Today
Zuckerberg detailed how Facebook Pages allows users to interact and affiliate with businesses and organizations in the same way they interact with other Facebook user profiles. More than 100,000 new Facebook Pages launched today covering the world’s largest brands, local businesses, organizations and bands.

“The core of every user’s experience on Facebook is their page and that’s where businesses are going to start as well,” explained Zuckerberg. “The first thing businesses can do is design a page to craft the exact experience they want people to see.”

Just like a Facebook user, businesses can start with a blank canvas and add all the information and content they want, including photos, videos, music and Facebook Platform applications. Outside developers have created a range of applications to enhance Facebook Pages, such as booking reservations or providing reviews of restaurant pages, buying tickets on a movie page or creating a custom t-shirt. Companies launching applications for Pages include Fandango, iLike, Musictoday LLC, OpenTable, SeamlessWeb, Zagat Survey LLC and Zazzle.

The pages that Zuckerberg speaks about are surprisingly similar to the MySpace pages that brands are already offering. The primary value add here is that those profiles can be tied into the social graph. Does that mean that we are going to start seeing a ton of brand spam? Probably not since you have to pay to play. I would also expect Facebook to limit the number of branded news feed items that can be displayed at any given time.

Another interesting component of the ads is revealed in another part of the release:

Facebook’s ad system serves Social Ads that combine social actions from your friends — such as a purchase of a product or review of a restaurant — with an advertiser’s message. This enables advertisers to deliver more tailored and relevant ads to Facebook users that now include information from their friends so they can make more informed decisions. No personally identifiable information is shared with an advertiser in creating a Social Ad.

Social Ads can appear either within a user’s News Feed as sponsored content or in the ad space along the left side of the site.

That’s a relief to hear that no personally identifiable information is shared with an advertiser. I wonder what sort of information qualifies as “personally identifiable.” Also, will these unique brand pages really provide a significant opportunity for advertisers as opposed to a Google Adwords type of interface for smaller advertisers? Fortunately, in Facebook’s press releases there is no talk of Facebook’s “mullet” project in which competing applications would be launched that advertisers can leverage. Facebook did say that those brands can insert any form of media though and chances are that Facebook will be providing development resources to offer custom applications on these branded pages.

While there is no description of those “custom applications” within Facebook’s press releases, looks for unique applications to be embedded within these new brand pages.

Update
The eBay communications department reached out to me and wanted me to clarify that only your selling activities will be posted to Facebook not bidding or buying.

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