Sunday, January 30, 2011

Facebook: Friends with Benefits

Facebook is now the place where friends meet. The info service TechCrunch counts nearly 600 million Facebook members. But the social network has also a growing number of own friends: The big companies.

Take for example Intel. The chip-goliath has a fan page with more 300.000 people, who claim to like the company and their products. The Intel fans discuss new Intel products and strategies and communicate with the Intel staff. Tiffany & Co. has also huge fan community on Facebook (more than 700.000 fans). Thousands of people who communicate about jewelry, company-strategies and products.

You can find a lot of brands on Facebook: Starbucks, Coca Cola, Wal-Mart, Abercrombie & Fitch, you name it. All these companies use the social network for communicating with their fans (customers and would be customers) and for advertising. Facebook is therefore a cheap platform for public relations and marketing.

It looks like, thousands of people are happy to advertise for companies, without being paid for it. All the clicks of Facebook's "Like" button and all the check-ins at restaurants, stores and other establishments on Facebook are valuable marketing material. Many companies now use the social network as an additional big marketing department for almost no costs.

And now some companies start to sell their products via Facebook. Some days ago, Quidsi, a subsidiary of, has opened up a few stores selling household items on the social network. Quidsi has created electronic commerce pages for their sites, and Existing users of these shopping sites can now shop for products directly from the social network under a tab called "Shop My List". Amazon, the mother of Quidsi, found another way for selling products: You can now send Amazon gift cards via facebook, for example on birthdays of friends.

You can bet, that Facebook also wants a piece of the big cake it is baking. Last week the social network announced an advertising program, called "Sponsored Stories". Companies and individuals can buy the rights to republish some actions of the Facebook members (clicking the "Like" button) in ads -- including the Facebook member name and profile photo -, the Washington Post reported.

No wonder that the Wall Street values the empire of Mark Zuckerman (founder and CEO)  already valued at around $80 billion (Bloomberg). Having a lot of friends has a lot of benefits.

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