You can call it business diversification. You can call it being prudent. Whatever you call it, Facebook's announced acquisition of the Atlas digital advertising platform last week marked a very peculiar day in the history of the world's most popular social network. In acquiring Atlas, Facebook may have made its clearest move in pursuit of what I call the “Voldemort strategy.”
Lord Voldemort, the arch nemesis to Harry Potter throughout author J.K. Rowlings' seven-book series (I’m a fan), attempted to make himself immortal via measures that I won't specifically discuss for fear of publishing series spoilers. Suffice it to say that Voldemort worked to "diversify" himself in ways that would guarantee his personal longevity. Facebook is now clearly placing bets on specific areas in hopes of ensuring its own longevity.
Last year’s acquisition of photo-sharing social-media platform Instagram, the company’s new-ish focus on the mobile user experience, and the more recent introduction of Graph Search all serve as evidence that Facebook is working to expand its reach across the social landscape.
This most recent acquisition also makes a lot of sense for Facebook. Currently the number-two display-ad-serving technology, Atlas extends Facebook’s reach to many of the world’s largest online publishers. In the company’s official announcement, Director of Product Marketing Brian Boland noted that “measuring various touch points in the marketing funnel will help advertisers to see a more complete view of the effectiveness of their campaigns. Acquiring Atlas will be an important step towards achieving this goal.”
Translation: “We realize marketers have had a difficult time quantifying the impact of social ads on Facebook, and through Atlas we’re going to crack that attribution nut.”
But the upside for Facebook isn’t limited to proving the worth of its existing social ads platform. Though not specifically discussed in the announcement, Facebook would presumably extend Open Graph data to third-party publishers running Atlas technology. This would enable far richer segmentation and ad personalization options -- an enhancement that would certainly be welcomed by many deep-pocket advertisers.
Perhaps most important, though, this strategy aims to solidify Facebook’s footing in an uncertain operating environment. Many industry observers have pointed to looming issues Facebook must address, such as declining on-site engagement, and the tween/teen demographic’s “tiring of Facebook” in favor of newer social upstarts. With Atlas, Facebook is further entrenching itself in the online ad space, which has proven to be far less fickle than social networking.
So as Facebook meets its core challenges head-on, entertaining new opportunities is wise. Diversifying its sources of revenue, introducing (and acquiring) entirely new social experiences to meet evolving needs, and innovating across its social core seems to be the most optimal way to pursue immortality.
That’s a pursuit that even Lord Voldemort can get behind.