Facebook on Tuesday made a pointed pitch to Madison Avenue: We know how to get your messages to real people, nearly one billion of them, because we know exactly who they are and whom they trust.
Speaking to marketers in New York at a time when the company faces acute pressure to increase revenue, Sheryl Sandberg, the company's chief operating officer, sought to assure the industry that Facebook was single-mindedly focused on proving the promise of advertising on its platform.
"Rather than just talk at large groups of anonymous people, businesses can relate to a consumer and establish an ongoing relationship," she said at the Advertising Week conference. "And importantly, that consumer has an average of 130 friends there, so when they are talking to that consumer, that person brings their friends along."
Ms. Sandberg played down the company's falling stock price, saying the ethos of the West Coast meant that the company had already moved on.
"While certainly people were disappointed, you know, Silicon Valley companies, we cycle quickly," she said. "We iterate so quickly, and so we're pretty good at moving forward. We launch products. Some of them work. We launch the next product."
Ms. Sandberg, pressed by her interlocutor, the television journalist Charlie Rose, said that pressure from investors had neither damped confidence among employees nor stymied their ability to churn out new products. "We are really happy with the progress we are making," she said.
The enthusiasm has not spread to Wall Street. The company has lost nearly half its value since its initial public offering in May, and its executives have been criticized for setting high expectations and failing to meet them.
The stock closed Tuesday at $22 a share, from an offering price of $38, and remained unchanged in after-hours trading following the public appearance of Facebook officials. The company is to report third-quarter earnings later this month.
The market research firm, eMarketer, recently scaled back its bullish revenue projections; it now estimates that Facebook will earn $5 billion in revenue this year and grow to $6.6 billion in 2013.
Facebook's bread and butter is advertising, and it needs to prove to Madison Avenue that money spent on Facebook will yield measurable results. Facebook, Ms. Sandberg said at the conference, can transform how marketers reach their audience because Facebook knows exactly who is in that audience.
These days, Facebook is pushing stronger than ever at targeted advertising. It is using not only the data it has from its roughly 955 million users worldwide, it is matching that with the trail of data consumers leave as they shop online and offline -- and using it to analyze what kinds of advertisements work best on Facebook.
It is a gamble. Facebook also must persuade users to trust the social network with their personal information.
Facebook's new forays reveal the rich trail of data that consumers can leave, often unwittingly, every time they buy groceries with a loyalty card or when they longingly eye a pair of shoes online. All of that data can trickle back to Facebook: With nearly a billion users, the company can find those consumers when they log on to Facebook and direct tailored ads to them.
In an experiment that stirred some controversy, Facebook linked arms with Datalogix, a data-mining company, to glean what individual shoppers buy at offline stores. Datalogix says it gets this information from loyalty card data and other sources.
Facebook can find those shoppers on its own platform if they have a Facebook account. It can then serve them advertisements based on their purchase history. Facebook calls the results promising: Shoppers who are shown advertisements on their Facebook page are spending more at the cash register.
Facebook says it is not sharing its user data with third parties. It also says it makes personal information anonymous by hashing the data, though security researchers have questioned the effectiveness of such tactics.
The partnership with Datalogix led the Washington-based advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Another new advertising offering is Facebook Exchange. With this effort, an online shopping site like HauteLook can target its customers on Facebook. It knows when customers are browsing for items on its own site, and can then ask Facebook to serve advertisements to those customers when they log onto Facebook.
The process is called retargeting. It is common on the Web, though new for Facebook.
At the conference on Tuesday, Marc Andreessen, a Facebook board member and early investor who was seated at Ms. Sandberg's side, offered a vision of other ways that Facebook might leverage the information it has about its users.
If he is walking past a restaurant where his Facebook friend -- say Mr. Rose, the television journalist -- was having lunch alone, he could be notified on his cellphone, along with a discount offer for lunch. Mr. Andreessen described this as a win for all parties concerned: a lunch date for Mr. Rose, a discount for himself and a new customer for the restaurant.
Mr. Rose asked whether using that data could make Facebook users feel uncomfortable. Ms. Sandberg said new technology always elicited new anxieties, but that Facebook would have to reassure its users.
"Trust is the cornerstone of our business," she said.interact
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.