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Facebookers can profit on feature

Thu., March 13, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook Inc.’s popular online hangout so far has proved to be a better place for promoting fun and games than peddling products.

But a new application aims to inject more commerce into the social playground by paying Facebook members who help merchants sell to their friends.

The program, called Market Lodge, revolves around the notion that consumers are more likely to buy merchandise or services recommended by someone they know and trust.

Market Lodge, made by a startup called bSocial Networks Inc., will pay Facebook members a 10 percent commission on all sales made on their recommendations.

Facebook tried to capitalize on the bonds of friendship last year by introducing a marketing system that includes broadcasting product endorsements among people who know each other.

The strategy hasn’t paid off yet, largely because many of Facebook’s users rebelled against a feature called “Beacon” that tracked and shared information about their purchases and other actions made on Web sites.

Spurred by the backlash, Palo Alto-based Facebook now allows its users to turn off Beacon.

Conifer, Colo.-based bSocial is betting Facebook’s roughly 67 million users will be more receptive to an approach that dangles a financial incentive for participating.

Facebook members who decide to use Market Lodge can customize their own stores, selecting from more than 1,200 products sold by about 50 different merchants.

Once the personal store is set up, Facebook users can invite others to check out their recommendations. Market Lodge users can make purchases from their own stores and still qualify for the 10 percent sales commission.

Inventory, order processing and delivery arrangements are handled by the merchants – just as they would be for any other sale.

More than 100 people have signed up for Market Lodge since it rolled out last week.

For now, Facebook won’t receive a cut of the sales made through Market Lodge, but bSocial Networks eventually may consider sharing revenue, Spielman said.


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