FacebookMy recent article about Facebook not being a viable marketing tool has created quite a stir.

Many people agreed with me. But some people didn't, and I respect that. However, while a few were scathing and harsh in their remarks, others posted some excellent rebuttals on their own blogs.

This topic seems to be as controversial as the long-versus-short-copy debate in copywriting circles. Deja-vu? Well, it's no wonder because, just like the copy length debate, both sides are right.

It all depends on how you use them and with whom.

That's why I agree with most of Facebook's proponents. That might sound like a contradiction, but I believe it's because many misunderstood my post. So I wanted to take a moment before hopping on the plane to clarify a few things.

First, some people have lumped my remarks with my feelings toward Web 2.0 as a whole.

They say, “Fortin is anti-Web 2.0.” Huh? If you know me, and if you read my recent white paper, “The Death of The Salesletter,” then you know that I'm pro-Web 2.0, and probably more so than any other copywriter out there.

And some people commented that us Internet marketers are looking at Web 2.0 as just another way to pitch our wares. But since Web 2.0 is more of a conversation than it is a medium, that's the reason why marketers fail — or fail to see the “real potential.”

Let me be clear.

When I was referring to social networking sites, and particularly Facebook, I didn't lump it with Web 2.0 as a whole (and Web 2.0 is a lot more than just social networking sites, too).

In fact, I talked about blogging and forum marketing as being great Web 2.0 tools you should have in your marketing arsenal.

And when I said it wasn't viable, I said it wasn't for me. But it could very well be for others.

(Some people commented that they made a ton of money with social networking sites, and a few have said this in a snarky attempt to cut me down. My only explanation is that they misunderstood my post, they didn't read my post, or they just wanted to brag.)

Again, I didn't say Facebook wasn't viable for everyone. It simply isn't for me. At least, not at this time. But that might change very soon, and I'll come back to this.

Ultimately, the point of the article was not entirely about Facebook (which was, admittedly, used as a hook since it's so controversial) but about “viability”. That was the point I wanted to drive home.

It's about testing.

And what I found through my research was that, the real money, I believe, is not Facebook in itself but through the creation — and ownership — of platforms like it… or of applications one can use through these social sites.

Just like the gold rush a century ago, the money is not in prospecting for gold but in the ownership of land rented out to these prospectors, and especially in the sales of picks and shovels.

Similarly, Web 2.0 is just another gold rush — not a gold mine. And there's plenty of money to be made with the rush itself. (Morever, it doesn't mean that some people won't find gold. Some already have. In spades.)

Here's an interesting video by my friend Jason Moffatt on the same subject, and his thoughts echo mine — but I must warn you, Jason uses strong, sometimes coarse language. So this is not for the easily offended.

(He calls it “The Meat Report,” to which you must subscribe to view it. In it, Jason made a great analogy where marketing from within these social sites is akin to renting versus owning a property. Very appropriate.)

Bottom line, creating platforms and applications for these social sites is where the real money is, as Jason Moffatt pointed out in his video. (In fact, its open platform is what differentiates Facebook from other social sites.)

Can money be made with these social sites proper? I mean, without developing applications and such? Sure.

But that's the laborious part I was referring to. And in this case, it's not so much Facebook in itself that might prove beneficial but its Groups.

For example, common-themed and interest-based Facebook Groups are great locations for attracting and targeting markets of like mind, and are no different than, say, niche-centric or topical blogs, forums, or communities.

(As Dan Kennedy says, it's about “gathering the herd.”)

That's why, at the very least, I believe that Facebook Groups seem more viable than Facebook itself, as a whole.

Aside from Groups, its open platform, allowing applications to interact with it, is what makes Facebook different than many other social networking sites out there, like MySpace.

(But now we've got another phenomena occurring. How many times are you hit with new applications every single day? From SuperPokes to Zombie Bites? Me, at least two or three a day. So the new application arena will become — if it isn't already — just as spammy, I fear. But that's for another day.)

Now, that said, here's a strange piece of news that might change all this…

Facebook just announced on the same day I posted my article (funny that!) it will launch it's new public profile system.

That is, your profile can be seen and indexed by the search engines, like Google, allowing you to be in them and creating a potential source of organic traffic.

Now, that is interesting!

(Hmm, I see another test coming.) 😉

Nevertheless, I don't pretend to be a social marketing expert. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Some of my friends have made several tens of thousands with Facebook and swear by it. Good on them.

In the end, it's too labor-intense and untargeted for me and my business.

So if you can outsource it to someone, then do so. It would be no different than, say, having moderators work your forum, ghostwriters writing content for you, or freelancers doing article and forum marketing for you. (And that's a whole other ball o' wax.)

Speaking of which, some people said I contradicted myself by saying that you can outsource it, and therefore it wouldn't be any different than article marketing, which I prefer and would outsource anyway.

True, article marketing requires work, too.

But it's not as labor-intense as social marketing. And the keyword word here is “intense.” Article marketing has a lot more residual payoff than these social sites, which require constant maintenance.

But if Facebook does what it announced today — i.e., being indexed in search engines — then Facebook might indeed become viable for me and equally productive as, say, article marketing.

And that is my next test.