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Marketers Want to Know: Will Facebook Users Go Public?

Facebook undoubtedly caught marketers' attention last week when it began testing a feature that lets users share their updates with the greater public. Now, each time a user posts to "What's on your mind" they will be asked who may be allowed to see it, with "everyone" being an option. BusinessWeek's Douglas MacMillan reports that third-party companies are already working on software that can analyze the information to see what products or services Facebook members might be interested in based on these posts. Facebook will also modify its search engine to look for these real-time feeds.

"It opens up a whole other realm of content for companies who want to engage customers," says Marcel LeBrun, chief executive of Radian6, a social network monitoring software company. According to the report, Radian6 and competitors Sysomos and RightNow Technologies are all modifying their current products to take advantage of Facebook's new status-broadcasting feature.

Nevertheless, marketers will need to tread carefully, MacMillan says: only a small fraction of Facebook's 200 million (a few hundred thousand) users make their profile data available to companies. They will also need to avoid ticking off Facebook's notoriously privacy-protective audience. But how large a sales opportunity is this, really? MacMillan says it depends on how many of Facebook's users become comfortable with sharing their updates with the world.

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