Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Facebook's SocialAds: Jam today and tomorrow

SocialAds. The clue is in the name. What they do is the simple thing we see replicated elsewhere - serve the right ads to the right people at the right time.

That's a given. It's a big, big step in restoring response rates against the swan-dive of interruptive advertising.

But SocialAds have added something extra. Something, er, social.

They get that word of mouth is the single most effective sales pitch there is - accounting for between 60 and 70 per cent of all purchase decisions, depending on where you find your stats.

So an in-context, related ad is great. But an in-context related ad from a friend? Well that's a different league.

Ratings and recommendations of products from people you trust. Blyk understands this and we'll see exactly how it deploys that understanding as it rolls out its mobile model.

The idea makes use of the self-forming networks of trust that social networks create.

This is particularly effective when you add the understanding that people now have more trust in their peers than they do in brands, authority... the centre.

Recommended further reading on this:
Jeremiah Oywang at Forrester (Here).
Doc Searls (Here)

Now, I could argue that google's adsense does all this. It is in-context, related and served to the right people at the right time (if I'm searching for X and an ad for X is served against it - I'm the right person at the right time). What about the social bit? Well, my friend could forward me a link to a bit of content - that comes with his recommendation. I follow it and get served the ad when I see the content. It's kind of arrived in front of me with his recommendation.

However - there's no automation in that process. In SocialAds there appears to be.

The other element of their new business proposition is Facebook Pages, which allow businesses to have their own facebook profiles (and they are free) - so you can interact with consumers (fan-sumers as Jeremiah describes them - though I feel that underplays their role somewhat). I guess this is the equivalent of google's blogger?

They don't appear to have a way in which users of products create their own ads to share, or get invited into co-creating communities. Pity.

But these could be precisely the things that spin out of brands making wise use of the the two-way flow Facebook Pages are able to deliver.

The Facebook play is based on sound strategy for two reasons:

1. SocialAds are an easy sell for the current marketing mafia. They 'get' in-context related ads. They hear that social networks create trust. They know that trust begats sales. Where do I sign?

2. Facebook Pages offer more engaged (enlightened or willing to experiment) brands an easy opportunity to touch the network themselves (rather than simply witnessing its exponential value generation and handing over their cash). As they learn what it's like to be part of the communities which define brands, they will better serve the co-creational aspirations of Generation-C, Net Gen, the Edglings... the people who are inheriting the earth. Along the journey they should discover that these people want to help rate, shape, create, co-design, engineer and market. And they'll want rewards and ownership. Facebook Pages offer them an easy intro to the new business ecology and in an environment where connecting is made easy.

So it offers both a wedge of cash from the old guard right now (SocialAds) and a ticket to the future for the new (Facebook Pages).

It sounds like a winning combination to me.

This from the facebook blog (I would point you to the link, but it would only work for you if you were a member of facebook... as google's adsense may wish to point out)


What they say:
My first reactions in red:

"Today we announced an entirely new advertising solution for Facebook. Right now, we want to make clear what's changing—and what's not—for you.

"First of all, what's not changing:
  • Facebook will always stay clutter-free and clean.
  • Facebook will never sell any of your information.
  • You will always have control over your information and your Facebook experience.
  • You will not see any more ads than you did before this. See anymore ads? I didn't 'see' any in the first place. I appreciate they were there, but they didn't register.

Here's what is changing:
  • You now have a way to connect with products, businesses, bands, celebrities and more on Facebook.
  • Ads should be getting more relevant and more meaningful to you.
  • You now have the option to share actions you take on other sites with your friends on Facebook.

Engaging with businesses and buying things are part of your everyday life. Advertising doesn't have to be about interrupting what you're doing, but getting the right information about the purchases you make when you want it. We believe we've created a system where ads are more relevant and actually enhance Facebook.
Ah, so they get the engagement over interruption thing. But I'm afraid this IS just about serving the right people with the right ad at the right time. Yawn.

You now have a way to connect with things you are passionate about. We've launched Facebook Pages, which are distinct, customized profiles designed for businesses, bands, celebrities and more to represent themselves on Facebook.

We noticed people wanted to connect with their favorite music, restaurants, and brands; but there was no good place for these types of affiliations to exist. Now, there is a place for them and you can become a fan of whatever pages you choose in order to interact with your passions in new ways. You can post reviews for a local restaurant, buy tickets to a new movie, or be the first to get a heads up about new promotions.

Ads will be getting more relevant and more interesting to you. Instead of random messages from advertisers, we've launched Social Ads. Social Ads provide advertisements alongside related actions your friends have taken on the site. These actions may be things like "Leah is now a fan of The Offspring" (if I added The Offspring to my music) or "Justin wrote a review for Sushi Hut" (If Justin wrote this review on the Sushi Hut page). These actions could then be paired with an ad that either The Offspring or Sushi Hut provides.
A sample Social Ad.

Behind the scenes, we've instituted a system that tailors ads to you and your interests, which should make ads more appealing. Advertisers never have access to who is seeing their ads, personal information about you, or even what social actions accompany their ads. In other words, all of this completely respects your privacy, while providing you with a better Facebook experience.

Hmm wonder what kind of social data analytics they have going on at the back? Can they discern the most viral within each community, and offer them for sale?

You now have the option to bring actions you take outside of Facebook back in. Just as Facebook shares your on-site interactions with your friends through News Feed, we now give you an option to let News Feed share your off-site actions with your friends as well.
This is the notification you'll see whenever another site wants to send a story to Facebook.

For example, adding the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to your queue on Blockbuster.com might be something you want your friends to know about, so you can have a marathon. As usual, you have complete control over this information. Affiliate websites always notify you of any stories they want to send, and you'll have two opportunities—one on the website, and one on Facebook—to opt out of that story. Facebook always gives you the choice to decline a story the next time you log in.
They've watched and learned from the likes of the Visual Bookshelf and Blogfriends apps.

We want Facebook to reflect and enhance all your real-world relationships—the movie you see this weekend as well as the friends who are seeing it with you. If you have any questions or suggestions for how we can improve this, let us know.

Well yes I do: Take a look here.(How Facebooks SocialAds should work, but probably won't)

FasterFuture.blogspot.com

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?