Look at that smiling face. Yep, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, deserves to be a very happy man indeed. After all, not only has he created something that can genuinely claim to be changing the world, but he's also made an awful lot of money for a 24 year old. What's more, it seems that Mark and his friends at Facebook have finally worked out how to make even more cash - by leveraging Facebook's vast stores of personal data to turn it into a massive 150 million strong research panel.
This article in today's Telegraph tells you all about it - including a neat real time demo at the service's official launch, which polled Israeli's and Palestinians with the same questions about peace and 120,000 Americans about Obama's economic policies. The dream is for multinationals to be able to do the same thing and get rapid, robust feedback on issues that might once have taken weeks to research.
With all the personal data we put in there already, Facebook certainly has a head start when it comes to finding the right people for brands to talk to. Given that people have signed up to have fun and keep in touch with their mates, however, not get hassled for their opinion, they'll have to tred a bit carefully to make sure they don't piss off their users. That said, if it's done on an opt-out basis, manage the experience for the users and ideally offer a reward for participation, then I'm sure they'll find a sizeable population of people up for giving their opinion every now and again. From a marketer's point of view, it'll be really interesting to see what kind of functionality they'll be able to offer in terms of research. Seeing as they'll be keen to start getting people on board, and build up those all important case studies, now's a good time to ask them I reckon. With a bit of luck you might even swing yourself a freebie or two!