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.