Yes, Facebook continues to struggle with providing value and ROI with ad sales on the site; even though they are reaching some of the right folks with targeted ads.
However, as I've noted in some recent entries within this blog and the RaceTalk blog, they are making very steady progress in appealing to marketers on other fronts. Fan and brand pages, check. Vanity URL's, check.
Today, Facebook took another huge step in appealing to marketers by bringing live video and real-time chat features to its 200 million+ users. To do so, it is launching the Facebook Live Stream Box: a feature that any Website or developer can use to enable Facebook users to connect, share, and post updates in real-time as they watch live streaming events and video. For the time being, the most important place where it can be used? On Facebook.
Ustream which has teamed up in the past with Facebook to support streaming presentations, including a series of recent Jonas Brothers Webcasts (example below) on their Facebook Fan Page, is the first developer to offer (the extension of) their services to artists and brands under this new feature.
They'll likely have people lining-up to take advantage of it, if the Jonas Brothers trial can be replicated in any way. According to Facebook the live following of the Jonas brothers Webcasts led to 1.5million updates - averaging 23,000 posts per minute - and more than 100,000 viewers.
In fact, given the demand they expect and the limited customized players they can build, Ustream has created an application process for brands and artists. Those that are chosen will have the options of: 1) A free ad-supported version - Partners Only 2) A white-label version, not supported by ads, which will cost $15,000 to develop.
While this may sound like a lot at first (especially for some artists), it's really a small price for marketers that are used to spending 10's of millions of dollars on television advertising. Despite some misperceptions, the highly sought after teen to twenty demographic is still watching a lot of TV, and tapping new strategies to reach them within this hybrid of a social network-based, TV experience will continue to grow in importance.
As for Facebook. It has only been able to turn analog dollars into digital dimes to date, but post-analog riches could lie ahead, if this is a sign of things to come.