June 7, 2012 by Dan Patton
Knowing what a woman likes may be the key to a happy ending; but if you don’t work it right, you shall not be released. Likewise, the personal information stored by Facebook may boast the world’s largest bathroom wall of good times, but marketers will not score if they don’t got game. While the social network’s initial public offering brings them one step closer to the booty, it also reveals a corporate world so prematurely aroused by the notion of a quick buck that it doesn’t realize what it’s dealing with.
No doubt, Facebook contains a worldwide motherlode of consumer turnons. In addition to the 155 million Americans who use it, 43 million Indians, 43 million Indonesians and 38 million Brazilians have created profiles that can generate exponentially more favorite pages, cherished photos, friends, likes, unlikes and preferences. There are also hundreds of pages devoted to specific products and celebutantes dujour, where admirers by the millions increase the awareness of specific brands by posting and reading exclamations about the value of energy drinks and the urgency of fashion trends. And there’s a number of Facebook apps that require players to waive all kinds of privacy rights before joining the game. It is a capitalist’s guide to millions of people who cannot get enough of themselves, who show too much information and who appear more than willing to click “add to cart.”
But Facebook is not directly selling the personal information stored in individual profiles. Numerous outrcries suspecting the company of doing so have confirmed that the risk is not worth it. Rather, Facebook allows advertisers to target the general tastes and lifestyles of its users without actually giving up their names and contact information. Last year, the scheme racked up $3.15 billion in sales that made half a billiion in profit.
Predicting the growth of this model is rather uncertain, in part because there are significant populations of Facebook users who appear completely uninterested in following Kardashian updates to the check out aisle. A handful of recent studies conclude that, for many, Facebook is a tool for organizing mass protests against abusive governments. In a recent article for The Atlantic, Associate Editor Rebecca Rosen noted that the total number of Tunisian Facebook users increased from 30,000 to almost two million - “Nearly a fifth of the country’s total population” - during the recent era that has become known as “The Arab Spring.”
And then there’s the backpacked, facekerchieved, First Amendment lovin’ American gripewads who mucked up downtown Chicago by marching in circles for three straight nights during the NATO Sumit. They posted much of their anti-Capitalist agenda on Facebook, the company that holds the highest first-day IPO Trading Volume statistics in the history of profiteering. In turn, they were chased liked kudus in a Kalahari persistence hunt, dogged by the unshakable endurance of police until they dispersed. They are included in the sale as well.
Although few experts wonder why Facebook’s stock took a nosedive and the real world began to wonder why it cared about so much about a virtual forum, many of them still insist that the key to happiness is in there somewhere. It’s just that investors will have to do a little more work before they can insert the thing.