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Google recently announced that it has designs on Facebook’s social media crown by launching its own rival site.  In spite of rumours that it’s going to be called ‘Google Me’, we’re not sure how much of a chance it has.

Since February 2004, when Mark Zuckerberg launched thefacebook.com, Facebook’s early predecessor, few could have predicted the speed or the level of impact it would have on the online advertising community. With the imminent launch of ‘The Social Network’, it seems interest will continue to grow, but now, a mere 6 years since it has been available to the public, how do we feel about it?

It has given marketers all over the globe a new medium for communication based on the traditional aspects of word of mouth or referral marketing. It allows advertisers the ability to target an audience by the information they have provided about themselves – information varying from merely their age and gender to their likes, dislikes, favourite films, music and literature.

Adverts on Facebook can be relatively cheap and available to the majority of businesses, allowing nearly everyone who wants it to have the opportunity to advertise themselves online. It begs the question; ‘If everyone can do it, does it lose its effect? Does it become spam and easily ignored by users?’

Facebook was said to have generated between $700 million and $800 million in advertising revenue in 2009, a figure higher than was expected. With Facebook’s 500 million users browsing the site’s pages, it seems the chance to reach that large a number is attractive to advertisers, regardless how many click on their ads.

With its users spending 700 billion minutes a month on the site, such a concentrated amount of people actively swapping information about themselves online has never existed before. But it is the information swapping that made Facebook both brilliant and controversial.

In its short lifetime Facebook has been no stranger to controversy, attracting a number of lawsuits and a wealth of criticism over those who use the site and how they use it. With ever growing reports that Facebook has been used by adults to groom children, schools reporting accounts of cyber- bullying and with tribute pages being set up for people such as Raoul Moat, it could make you begin to doubt Facebook’s future.

Over the past year Facebook announced regular changes regarding its privacy policy, one of which was that it planned to share information with a third party. It’s constantly changing privacy settings have left some users feeling exposed. With Facebook allowing people to display as much or as little personal information as they choose, with as many different people as they choose, the controversy seems unfair. If you don’t want someone to know your phone number, don’t put it on the internet, right? But should the default settings on Facebook be that everything is shared and to hide information so it is only shared with your ‘friends’ and you have to manually change it? This may have been acceptable when Facebook’s members were confined to one campus, but now its users are spreading across nearly the entire globe, is it not time for Facebook to reflect that?

It seems comparing Facebook to Twitter, LinkedIn or foursquare is a little pointless as none have reached the same level of popularity or even offer the same service. Although each are information- sharing social sites, they don’t offer the level of depth Facebook can. Although, as reported recently in The Guardian (23rd July 2010) it is possible to follow and make contact with a stranger (as one journalist proved) just via their tweets and foursquare updates. So they are still viable for the level of criticism usually reserved for Facebook, if not the success it seems. Even with on-going privacy squabbles, it seems advertising on Facebook shows no signs of waning, and especially as socialmediatoday.com (2010) has predicted a 39% increase in advertising spend on the site this year.

So with nearly a billion in advertising revenue, 500 million users, an MD that goes to meetings in his PJ’s and its own Hollywood film, it seems we may still be a while off asking people we just met in the pub to ‘Google me!’.

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