Facebook is testing a new program capable of serving up ads as fast as members can post a status update.
The social networking giant's initiative, currently being tested on 1 percent of its users, delivers promotions based on real-time conversations.
For instance, if someone posts, "Thinking of pizza for dinner," a company such as Domino's could ship a Web ad to that person in an instant.
The advertising test, which was reported in Ad Age, opens a brave new world of real-time advertising, as well as raising the usual privacy concerns when a Web company mines personal data for commercial advantage.
"It's an opportunity for advertisers to get in the conversation, and to have that timing advantage is potentially huge," said Paul Verna, a senior analyst with eMarketer.
"But in order for it to happen, Facebook has to pay close attention to not overstepping that balance or risk freaking people out, invading privacy and going over that line."
The firm is serving up real-time ads based on the same information it already gathers on users, only faster, experts said. It rang up ad revenue of $1.86 billion last year, according to eMarketer, which is forecast to more than double to $4.05 billion in 2011.
Promos based on real-time conversations offer a new pathway to advertisers looking to guide purchasing decisions. Until now, search ads have been seen as the best way to reach customers when they are closest to pulling out their wallets.
"This is the next best thing, or even better than Google search," said Michael Lazerow, chief executive of Buddy Media.
"The idea that you can take what people are doing, thinking and caring about right now and deliver content based on that is pretty powerful."
Users, though, may not be so forgiving. "They seem to be running into a creepy factor," said Sucharita Mulpuru, a Forrester Research analyst. "As it is, people wonder if Facebook is monitoring their conversations. This pretty much confirms that Facebook is."