By now it's widely understood that the core focus of targeting is not the content of the page, but the consumers of that content -- and, even more important, how they consume it. Unfortunately most advertisers and publishers still approach Web 2.0 with models of consumer behavior based on Web 1.0 limitations, as Andy Monfried, founder of leading social media technology developer Lotame explains below.
Behavioral Insider: What were some of the motivations that led to the development of Lotame and your signature technology for social network targeting, Crowd Control? Previously you worked with Advertising.com, right?
Andy Monfried: After I left Advertising.com I did some consulting for social media publishers and found they had this incredible platform, but the tools used to monetize it were woefully inadequate in comparison to the property itself. The prices they were having to offer for inventory were unbelievably low. I remember thinking to myself this just couldn't be.
BI: How about advertisers? What sorts of perceptions or misperceptions did they bring to social networks?
Monfried: Advertisers for their part are working with Web 1.0 tools and methods for a Web 2.0 world. What I mean is that advertisers need to serve and sell social media advertising in the same manner as people are actually using it. Lotame bridges this gap by effectively aligning consumers and advertisers.
BI: How do you achieve that kind of alignment?
Monfried: Most targeting, even targeting that bills itself as behavioral targeting, has a very outmoded notion of behavior. The implicit assumption is that behavior consists of passive consumption of "precooked" information or entertainment content. So you follow what Web site visitors browse and associate that by inference with some subjects they're likely interested in, segmenting accordingly.
That may or may not be adequate for traditional Web published content, which is still largely based on the model of old media, which are designed to target passive consumers. But when you're attempting to migrate advertising, new media now accounts for at least 20% of all impressions and rising fast.
You've got to look at entirely new sets of data that social media generates and, more importantly, learn how to cull from that relevant ways of tracking the kinds of engagement, participation, interaction and involvement in depth that are unique to social networks and how to segment audiences who are actually makers and creators.
The mandate now is to go beyond targeting in terms of subject classification and contextually by content. What we do is tie engagement to context for the first time. We pride ourselves on being the industry leader at presenting this hidden value to our clients.
BI: How does Crowd Control apply behavioral methodology to social media?
Monfried: We track over 34,000 individual behaviors ranging from uploads to sharing to posting to linking to commentary. It's not just about navigating existing content. It's about how individual members in a social network interact with content in specific communities. We provide publishers with those behaviors and a general taxonomy that includes 171 different segments. But we allow -- more than allow, we encourage -- publishers to code them any way they want to reach the customers they most need to.
The object in fact is to make this technology light enough so that publishers can easily learn to target behaviors on a self-serve basis. Our technology is customizable to provide our clients with the ability to tap into the audience they want without wasting time, energy, or money on people who aren't interested in their product.
BI: At this stage it appears social networking is still a tough sell for many brands. Would you say it's primarily a vehicle for direct sales?
Monfried: Social networking is not by any means a direct marketing vehicle alone. It's the biggest opportunity for brand frequency because you're talking about a highly involved user population. The average page views per session can be in the hundreds. When there's that much involvement you're uniquely positioned as a brand to target for high frequency and recency.
BI: What sorts of criteria make the most sense in judging metrics on a behaviorally targeted social media campaign?
Monfried: As ads get richer the duration of time spent with the ad becomes much more relevant than click-through. For so long click-through rate and conversion metrics have been the primary factors in determining the success of an online campaign. However, social media needs to be looked at through a different lens. I think engagement metrics are evolving into the next yardstick when you're talking about successful online advertising within social media.
OMD recently provided a study showing that one engaged user is the equivalent of eight regular users. I think engagement has to be part of the discussion when you're talking about effective behavioral targeting inside Web 2.0 and successful online advertising results. If your interest, especially as a brand, is to identify customers by the highest levels of interest and the most intensity, social media's the place to be. It gives the brand the opportunity to send multiple creatives to people they identify as their sweet spot.
BI: How do you see the convergence of behavioral targeting and social media evolving the remainder of this year and into next?
Monfried: Ultimately we see the adoption curve over the next 12 months growing to make user-generated content a much bigger part of media plans. As experience becomes more prevalent, we see brands becoming more comfortable.