Tim Kendall is Facebook's director of monetization. (We were sad to learn his job has nothing to do with the French impressionists.) He says Facebook can make its notoriously low-performing Social Ads work — basically by bring back Beacon. The key, Kendall told AllFacebook, is keeping track of Facebook users' commercial activities on and off the site and then, when a user buys a product, offering the product's marketers a chance to pay Facebook to tell that user's friends in their Facebook News Feeds. "Marketers will be able to pay for increased or enhanced distribution above and beyond what News Feed already provides," explains AllFacebook's Nick O'Neill.
An example would be purchasing a ticket to a concert. Usually, a small subset of your friends would receive a notification of this action, however, in the future Cheryl Crow or Ticketmaster could pay for this to be distributed to your full friend group.
Kendall said Facebook will roll out the new plan in the next 6 to 12 months. How's this different than Facebook's failed Beacon product? Not very. But we count at least three ways. For one, Facebook widgetmakers will be able to participate by serving the new Social Ads, though Kendall was light on details. For another: Marketers didn't pay to be a part of Beacon. They'll have to pay now. Finally, we're betting Facebook learned its lesson and will make it easy for users to opt in and out. We still say the best way for Facebook to turn its users into a team of product marketers 100 million strong would be to offer them a cut.