Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Much speculation and debate erupted in response to a September 2007 comScore report on display advertising on the social network sites MySpace and Facebook. MySpace dominates over Facebook in terms of user base (measured by unique visitors), as well as number of display ads served per page. Let’s talk business. Pushing consideration of the systematic quality and integrity of these social networks aside, comScore’s findings categorized MySpace as being a far more developed advertising platform than Facebook. MySpace attracted 68.4 million unique visitors in September 2007, which is 2.2 times the 30.6 million that reportedly visited Facebook. MySpace users also viewed 1.4 times more pages per visitor and displayed 2.2 times more ads per page. Cumulatively, these stats indicate that while MySpace had twice as many unique visitors as Facebook in September, MySpace served six times as many display ads.

The debate? Should Facebook cowboy-up and increase its user base to begin to even compete with MySpace’s advertising business? I believe the biggest factor in this contention has to do with branding. Relative to the famous quote from 1988’s Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come,”; Facebook seems to be gripping tightly on to its original branding strategy; to be a college-based, highly secure, confidential, and exclusive networking tool. I contend that my peers and I feel more secure posting information on Facebook, finding comfort in the knowledge that only users in my college or ‘accepted-friend’ network can access my profile information. Furthermore, Facebook’s blue and white, clean-cut layout contrasts dramatically to the colorful, noisy, and animated templates often implemented by MySpace users. As WebProNews’s Jim Tobin reports earlier this month, he categorizes Facebook’s brand as, “clean and pure,” while MySpace’s brand, is the, “wild, wild west” of social networks. Tobin further remarks that the ads served on MySpace, “are just another part of the chaos”.

Blog Business Summit’s Teresa Valdez Klein confirms the integrity of the Facebook brand in her article, What Kind of People are on MySpace vs. Facebook? Klein debates class differences between the user bases of the two popular social networks, and concludes, “Facebook kicks MySpace’s patoot,” specifying, “Facebook is stronger overall for business networking.” The media and online marketing industry’s spotlight has certainly been on MySpace as of late.

But is MySpace’s reserved analogue Facebook simultaneously—and inconspicuously—involved in leveraging their brand to covertly monetize on their user’s personal information? Bob Johnson’s Blog on Internet Marketing article, Johnson advocates that recent media news sources are giving, “major play to news that Facebook would be dipping into personal information people put online so that advertisers can use this information to make sure that when Sally buys a new Sony TV or when Tom enrolls in a University of Phoenix online course, that information is sent along to everyone else who is a friend of Sally or Tom.” This strategy is commonly referred to as ‘word-of-mouth marketing’; working on the assumption that if one person likes something, their friends will too. Industry analysts predict marketers are going to pay major dollars for this Facebook “word-of-mouth” marketing, gaining access to user’s seemingly secure Facebook profile information. However, Facebook seems to be implementing this without properly notifying their user base. Bill Johnson explains, Facebook is tip-toeing into this marketing initiative, waiting to see if any users are upset. Or perhaps, even notice? Not to worry, a statement from the head of Facebook assures, if there is opposition, “We’ll react quickly to that”.

Categorized by its flashy and chaotic profile templates, MySpace might be winning in terms delivering six times more display ad views than Facebook, but it’s preppy, clean-cut counterpart might be gaining some foothold behind the scenes. Sometimes it’s the quiet ones that win.

By Tessa Rudd -Account Executive – Advertising Media Division, Chitika Inc.