Facebook IPO: Predictions, Raves, Caution… And an Infographic

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ADOTAS – Welcome to the final countdown. Facebook’s IPO is expected to come this week, and with the amount of discussion on the topic since the network filed with the SEC for an initial public offering back in February, you assuredly don’t need us to remind you of that. And let’s face it: While, as an acquaintance of mine who works with a digital ad company just quipped to me a few minutes ago, “a few people are about to get very liquid,” for most of us,  news of the IPO itself is just finance porn. The real news is yet to come, as the results of going public play out for Facebook.

And we’ll see how that goes. We’ve heard quite a few opinions about where this whole thing is going for Facebook, its investors, its advertisers. Some are pretty gung-ho about it. In a statement released a few days ago, Victoria Ransom, CEO of social marketing company Wildfire, predicted that “Facebook could develop its own ad network spanning the entire web and start serving targeted ads on websites that have already integrated Facebook plugins.” She added, “Because of these already-existing plugins, Facebook knows when its users are on these other sites, what they are doing and who they are talking with.” And in another statement, Christian Taylor, CEO of Facebook ecommerce (F-commerce) platform Payvment, called Facebook “worth every penny of $100 billion” for its extensive infrastructure, through which “thousands of companies… have built their businesses,” and asserted that “Facebook has barely scratched the surface when it comes to mining their social graph data and looking for ways to integrate third-party data to make ads more relevant.” He said the IPO would push Facebook to innovate faster, and called those who question the company’s ability to leverage technology to make the most of its data “simply nuts.” To that end: See Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg‘s promise to investors at the end of last week that the network was “just getting started” with its widely criticized mobile app.

Others are a little more cautious. Eric Wheeler may be the CEO of 33Across, which manages one of the two largest social graphs out there, but he warned, “At 900 million users, their torrid growth rate can’t continue. And, when their growth inevitably slows down, they’ll be pushed to reveal more about their audience to their advertisers. Which, of course, presents a litany of privacy related problems.” This means, he explained, Facebook will have to get smarter about the performance of its display ads, while behaving in a transparent manner. He went so far as to predict, “Ultimately, to please its investors, Facebook will need to do something dramatic to grow its reach: Specifically, they might have to go ‘off Facebook.’ They could choose to do this themselves or partner with another company where they’re making money off their data.” Interestingly, that suggestion kind of dovetails Ransom’s about partnering with publishers that integrate Facebook plugins.

Roger Katz, CEO of social media marketing company Friend2Friend, said measurement of the performance of a social campaign still needed to be addressed in order to judge how much the network is worth, and he advocated for metrics that approached Facebook “in broader terms” than standard metrics for the rest of the web. “Metrics have to evolve to acknowledge that social is ushering in a whole new way of marketing to consumers,” he said. “Those social ROI metrics are emergent, but they will become an extremely powerful method of measuring success.” And meanwhile, Rick Corteville, CEO of digital agency Luxus, predicted that Facebook, to generate more revenue, might have “become more ‘passively omnipresent’ to users. What’s that mean? Well, he also suggested an “off-Facebook” option, “leveraging Facebook Connect to create an ‘AdSense-esque’ network for delivering relevant ads to consumers off of Facebook.” He advocated for more user services on the network itself, like perhaps “allowing consumers to search for others based on common interests.” That sounds like it’d be a delicious delivery on the voyeurism factor that so many Facebook users pretend to not love, but the network would have to handle it tactfully and explain how users can modify their security settings to determine who can view what information they post, considering how many Facebookers also gripe about third parties looking over their collective shoulder.

Anyway, since we’re here, media agency Banyan Branch has assembled an infographic showing how Facebook stacks up to Google, Zynga, Groupon and LinkedIn at their respective IPO dates. It also tracks what happened in the first 30 days after IPO for each of those companies, matched against the average path of all those companies. Banyan takes a look at how the conversation around the company’s IPO compares to the total conversation around the brand — for Facebook, it’s less than one percent (Zynga, which had the most-buzzed IPO of the bunch, saw its own IPO reflected in 5 percent of the conversation). And for good measure, the infographic breaks down its CEOs paychecks for 2011. Check it out:

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