Commentary

How Social Media Advertising Could Not Suck

Hint: it’s not easy and involves a tremendous amount of technology, so the faint-of-nerd should stop reading here.

Here’s the thing: I look at Facebook all the time and, as a marketer, am in awe of the amount of rich, useful information about myself and my intentions that I broadcast to the world all the time.  And I’m not talking about unstructured, implied intentions in my status updates: I’m talking about the data that’s been embedded in all of our profiles since Friendster (or whatever came before that).

They know where I’m from, where I live, who I’m dating (or engaged to, as it were), how long I’ve been with this person, her birthday, my birthday, our anniversary, my friends’ birthdays, where they live, what bands I like, what bands they like, what bands we like together; well you see where this is going.

Yahoo has also boasted a bastion of user data for years and years as the number one destination on the web, whose network reaches 87% of Internet users (Comscore, April 2009).  Safe to say that, like Facebook, they know quite a lot about who you are and what your intentions are as you pour your heart out to them with every click.

Yahoo isn’t social media, but they’re the key to identifying the social media advertising problem in that they share the same shortcoming: tons of demand, lack of supply.  If Facebook and Yahoo know so damn much about me, why am I still mostly seeing ads for teeth whitening?

Data is only as good as what you do with it.  Knowing my favorite band is only useful when you have an ad that tells me when they’re going to be in my town, and that there’s an empty seat for me and my other friend that likes the same band if we only click here and pay $99.  And the reason that ad doesn’t exist is because there are literally over 100,000 artists that I could possibly be interested in, all with different touring schedules, and multiplied by the number of cities I could be located in and suddenly it becomes a lot easier to just show me some teeth whitening again.

Quite honestly, Facebook’s Beacon was the closest thing to that kind of example but was unfortunately executed terribly (the way to do it would have been to cut the users in: allow Beacon to tell your friends you just bought a DVD at BestBuy, and get 10% back).

Beacon aside, I think Dynamic Advertising, when able to search in real-time for offers, is beginning to chip away at this problem on a larger scale.  Real-time is really, really hard to do from a technical perspective; saying that we should be searching the web for offers to match every individual intent is different from actually building an engine to do that for ads.  Keep that in mind as “real-time” becomes the new buzzword.

As more and more platforms (like Facebook) open up their data to advertising platforms, the data we need will certainly be there, and will finally become key to making social media really deliver ROI.  If I were an advertiser with many different offers on my website, I’d be looking for ways to use Dynamic Advertising and real-time match these user data points.  In fact, if you are one of these advertisers, feel free to comment and I’ll answer with specific ideas.
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8 comments about "How Social Media Advertising Could Not Suck".
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , July 30, 2009 at 9:14 a.m.

    Too much information for the public. Your friends talk to you, see you and you share personal information that should not be shared with others. The public does not really care about your birthday either, but the marketers want to see how old you are, just as well as your other information. Facebook and other networks were not designed for the consumer, although there are benefits; they were designed to sell you things and for you to cough up your info.

  2. Andrew Ettinger , July 30, 2009 at 9:42 a.m.

    Is this article a sales pitch or advice?

  3. Roger Toennis from Liquid Media LLC , July 30, 2009 at 9:46 a.m.

    "Hint: it’s not easy and involves a tremendous amount of technology, so the faint-of-nerd should stop reading here."

    The above statement is a clear indication that it won't work.

  4. David Berkowitz from 360i , July 30, 2009 at 10:15 a.m.

    I agree Beacon was just about brilliant, but saying a referral fee would have fixed it misses the entire point about why people use social networks. People are looking to communicate and goof off, not get a paycheck. That would decrease most of the motivation for sharing by paying off people for what they already enjoy doing.

  5. Paul Knegten from Dapper, Inc. , July 30, 2009 at 11:08 a.m.

    @Andrew Ettinger -- who is this a sales pitch for? Facebook? Yahoo? ;)

  6. Paul Knegten from Dapper, Inc. , July 30, 2009 at 11:11 a.m.

    @Rajah Ramjet -- I'm not so sure. Plenty of great solutions exist because seemingly insurmountable hurdles have been crossed through innovation.

  7. Paul Knegten from Dapper, Inc. , July 30, 2009 at 11:14 a.m.

    @David Berkowitz -- but therein lies the head-fake: yes they want to be there to goof off, but if they're *willing* to let Best Buy use their news feed the next time they buy something, at least 1) they're asking permission (opt-in) and 2) they're offering something in return. Plenty would still say no, but I'm sure the impact of those who allowed it would have made Facebook a lot more valuable to marketers than it is today.

  8. Nathan Hartswick from Asgood & Better Marketing , July 30, 2009 at 1:51 p.m.

    It does seem like the data is ahead of the curve. One day soon the marketing world will catch up, but until then it seems we're doomed to look at teeth whitening ads for awhile and, if we're lucky, a picture of our wife selling us a dating site.

    http://blog.asgoodandbetter.com/2009/07/26/privacy/

    Here's to not sucking!
    Nathan
    A&B