If a marketer mistakenly believes that its Facebook Page is a form of owned media, don't point the finger at Facebook. The company has reminded companies that their Facebook Pages and fans really belong to Facebook.
But marketers that still refuse to understand that their Facebook Pages don't belong to them, or don't want to think about the implications of this fact, are in for a rude awakening as Facebook weaves an increasingly tangled web with its efforts to turn marketer activity on its social network into cold hard cash.
The reason? As reported by Adweek's Tim Peterson, "Facebook has been internally allowing a select number of marketers to see their fans’ other affinities, such as their favorite brands, bands or TV shows." According to Peterson's sources, "the company has only been using [the tool] on a one-off basis with big-budget brands" and that representatives of preferred brand were only given access to the tool in a Facebook office.
Why the secrecy and security? It's quite obvious: in theory, Facebook's tool could allow these brands to gain key insights unavailable to their competitors, giving them an overall leg up on the social network. Additionally, the data provided could be combined with other data to enable favored brands the ability target their competitors and their fans on the social network.
Obviously, the operative phrase is in theory, but there's a much bigger issue here: Facebook is increasingly weaving a tangled web as it looks to grow revenue. Previously, the company had refused to give into marketer demands for bigger, bolder ads, sending GM packing in a highly-publicized huff. But following a disastrous public debut and growing skepticism over the company's financial prospects, Facebook's willingness to let favored brands into its offices so that they can peek at data not publicly made available suggest that Facebook may be buckling under marketer pressure.
A favor for a favor
Good news, right? Unfortunately, in playing favorites, Facebook is sending a clear message to marketers of all sizes: the world's largest social network is willing to trade favors. Not entirely satisfied with the data and metrics Facebook provides? If you're important enough (read: spend enough money, or look like you might spend a lot), Facebook might give you what you want. A reasonable deal, perhaps, if you can get it. But just remember: Facebook could be giving others, including your competitors, a better deal.
And therein lies the problem: if Facebook is to build a platform for reaching consumers that companies can trust, there's little to no room for the type of special access it's apparently giving.