Date: May 12 2012
ITS global user base is climbing inexorably towards 1 billion, and next week when it floats as a public company Facebook is expected to be valued at a staggering $US95 billion.
But to the company you are worth as little as $4.54 a year. That's the amount Facebook is likely to earn in advertising revenue this year from each of its 11 million Australian users, even though Australians spend more time on the social networking site than anywhere else.
It's marginally more than the global average, but less than half that each American and Canadian generates for the company.
Yet analysts expect an increase in advertising after Facebook goes public next week, as the pressure mounts from shareholders to lift the average revenue per user.
Advertisers typically use Facebook as a cheap means of getting to lots of people with simple ads that appear on the right-hand side of a person's page. John Miskelly, a director of the media buying agency MediaCom, said more and varied types of ads could appear, including handing over the entire home page to a single advertiser for the day, an increase in banner ads and more advertising messages appearing in a user's news feed, a space usually dedicated for personal posts.
He also raises the prospect that Facebook could open up the reams of data that it compiles on users to allow big-spending advertisers to see it directly to serve tailored advertising.
At the moment, advertisers do not have direct access to the data, but rather, they give Facebook a wish list of who they want to target, based on basic information such as age, gender and interests, and then Facebook places the ads on their behalf.
Facebook aggregates users into ''types'' based on the information they hand over, but mining that information more deeply would give advertisers more in-depth knowledge of who they would wish to target with ads.
''Getting hold of that kind of data would be a marketer's dream,'' said Mr Miskelly. ''It's a goldmine. It would really improve the targeting with their other online advertising, as they would be reaching the right people with their messages.''
Facebook watcher David Cowling, the editor of Social Media News, expects mobile phone users will see more ads on their handset screen, an area the company has yet to exploit but has flagged as area of growth.
Mr Cowling puts the lower ad revenue Australia down to the fact that few small businesses are using Facebook to advertise.
He said Facebook's founder, Mark Zuckerberg, who will remain a large shareholder, will resist commercialising the site too much.
''He is always focused on new products and making the site better,'' he said.
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