Kudos to Facebook. They’ve stumbled on a redefinition of advertising that seems potentially palatable for the consumer and useful for big brands and small businesses alike.
On the social web, where we select our communities and our friends and expect conversant interactions, interruptive push advertising is basically spam, whether it be a video ad, a banner or an unsolicited email. What Facebook is doing is building an ecosystem where scattershot is unacceptable, generic is ineffective, and it is possible to match effectively seller and buyer in a near social manner. Successful advertising on Facebook will be focused on ‘touch’ as a point of interaction and conversation rather than ‘push’ as an interruption and distraction.
Let’s step back and look at what Facebook has done.
Facebook has created through a free social network what the print and TV industries have been trying to do for generations. That is freely acquired, detailed demographics on the background, interests, affiliations, and relationship status for 350M individuals. And with, this the idea of advertising, both agency and individual suddenly have a new direction. Companies can offer information and products to you when you are looking for something and talking about it to your friends in a venue outside of search and keywords.
For as long as there has been products and audiences, the seller has tried to know more about their customers so they can target messages directly to the right customer at the right time. If you are single, you are probably OK to see a dating ad or planning a trip, travel insurance, and so on. The best advertising venues delivered the largest audience with the most specific demographics, but the match was never precise.
Here’s the beauty of the Facebook ecosystem from a pure marketing perspective—everything we as users share with our friends to create relationships and community, are the precise data that advertisers want:
* where we live
* what we read
* where we travel and what we eat
* religion, political beliefs, movies, music likes
* schools, clubs, organizations
* links to outside sites
* basically everything we share
Wow. A goldmine of value.
And this information costs nothing to acquire. Goodbye survey companies. It is now self-selecting. When Facebook pushes keyword search to the top, another new paradigm will emerge as well.
No wonder that a large chunk of Facebook’s $1B in revenue is from advertising.
I’m not a big user of advertising in my businesses. Social tools are more precise, more delicate and more to my liking. But what Facebook has done unlocks new avenues for communicating in a social way. My markets are on Facebook and I’m open to ways to reach them.
Three ideas bubble up around Facebook’s paradigm of what I call ‘touch’ vs. ‘push’ advertising.
First, what Facebook is starting to solve, albeit in a contained network, is the authentification problem. Online, with search you are either an IP address or a cookie. With Facebook you are a person with a face. No longer does the advertiser need to ‘boil the ocean’. It’s possible that advertising is moving to a direct marketing or even moreso a personal conversation between a brand and a consumer.
Second, advertising is potentially more than a tool of brute force. No reason to yell if you are talking one-to-one or one-to-a-few that fits a chosen demographic. The self service ad tool lets you precisely target, set your spend and adjust your ad to your chosen group of individuals.
And third, this drives the need for more creative, more specific and a more participatory approach towards ads and campaigns. I believe that today the world is moving towards being 100% customer driven. If you can find me when I’m planning a trip, changing my residence, planning my movie watching for the holidays, then I will pay attention to offers and campaigns that are interesting and engaging and thoughtful. If not, I’ll just ignore or block them. Even in advertising under this model, the consumer can decide what they see.
Facebook makes these three ideas a reality.
Social media and the social web demand new business models. As socialization and democratic venues arise, how companies converse with us needs to change. There are entire new economies, like game microcurrencies, and affiliate networks, then there has always been…advertising.
What Facebook appears to be discovering is that with open demographics, data driven, self-service tools, advertising can be reconfigured to be a useful touch point and an offshoot to conversation rather than an intrusive push interruption.