This is the second installment in a three-post series examining recent Facebook changes and its impact on digital marketing.
A few weeks have passed since Facebook announced that it would be expanding some of its core functionality for brand Page owners, and enhancing its advertising platform ahead of this year’s IPO. Those announcements originally gave me pause to reflect on how Facebook is reshaping the online marketing and advertising landscape for many brands. While Facebook is undeniably the world’s preeminent social network, its potential long-term impact on digital marketing is immense.
Last week I began by first investigating Facebook’s newly announced Open Graph Apps. Those applications (Canvas Apps and/or via Facebook Connect) are introducing more context and intent to social interactions that have to date been restricted to the simple “Like” expression. Now, brand owners can understand which television shows its customers “Watched” or which shirts its prospects “Want.” The possibilities are endless.
I wrapped up last week’s discussion by alluding to the possible extension of this type of new data into Facebook’s advertising platform. That extension is not yet a reality, but it’s a logical (and exciting) potential future development. Rather than simply targeting fans who have “Liked” the brand Page, introducing Open Graph App data would allow ads to be directed to users who have engaged with content and brands in more specific ways. This data within a Sponsored Story ad unit would allow other users to see what their friends “Watched” or “Wanted.”
Think advanced audience segmentation with a twist of social relevance.
New Premium Ads
Facebook’s new Premium advertising options move social marketers one step closer to that vision. Facebook Premium introduces several enhancements to its popular advertising platform: right-hand side of homepage (ads which are social by default), news feed on homepage, mobile news feed, log-out Page advertising. Premium ads are potentially game-changing across the social advertising category.
According to Facebook’s official materials for Premium:
“Premium on Facebook helps you maximize the number of people interacting with your brand and talking about you, while unlocking the power of fans and their friends. All of this is done on the most impactful placements on Facebook.”
Essentially, these are ad units which appear in the most crucial sections of the Facebook interface, and reflect a brand’s status updates rather than pre-determined ad text. The ads can include images, videos, or polls, and by default show which of a user’s friends have already “Liked” the brand page. The units additionally allows for sharing and liking natively within the ad.
These ads ARE social assets themselves. They overlay social context on top of the brand-to-consumer dialog and invite a relationship, rather than ask for an immediate transaction. The voice is authentic because the message and supporting visual cues are lifted directly from status updates from the brand’s Facebook Page.
This is how Facebook Premium changes everything via its ad innovations. Premium represents what potentially may become the first significant step towards legitimate one-to-one communications on a mass scale. It also further empowers marketers to leverage Open Graph data to effect brand-controlled word-of-mouth marketing. Sponsored Stories have been around for a while, and did this to a lesser extent, but Premium is a major step forward.
I also can’t help but wonder whether the concept of EdgeRank optimization will become a more popular tactic – now that it has both organic AND paid media implications.
The key now for Facebook, as it continues to diversify its revenue stream from (primarily) desktop-based advertising and its Zynga partnership, will be to very carefully navigate that gray area between its conflicted interests. On the one side is the desire to protect a pristine user experience, where sharing and connecting is frictionless and pleasing to its user base; the other side is the need to maximize the monetization of every pageview it receives across all devices.
Overdoing the latter could spoil this great advertising opportunity before us.