A couple days ago Facebook introduced its advertising platform, unsurprisingly named Facebook Ads.
There might be parts of it that I still have to grasp, but the whole point is that brands put themselves into the hands of consumers, that are free to pass them along to their connections.
– brands can have their own Facebook page, and people who visit them can establish a relationship with the brand, becoming “fans” or writing on the brand’s wall
– through the newly introduced Faceboook Beacon users can share their interactions on the brand’s own website, like for instance having their friends take a look at the film they’re renting from Blockbuster.com, or the book they’re rating at Amazon.com, and this is where paid-advertising comes in. Marketers can attach a message related to those user notifications, melting the ad itself with the user recommendation.
The main concern raised by this approach is whether consumers will have any reason to share their purchase behavior, but I think Facebook has many reasons to feel confident about it.
One of the things that social networks are teaching us is that people are very willing to share even the least significant details of their life with unknown strangers from around the world, so they should be even more likely to share their purchases, given how much they mean in our life, in the way we want to see ourselves, and above that in the way we want to be seen.
Up to the point that someone might make a purchase only so that friends might notice it, just like going shopping to be seen with a certain product. (Most obvious example: a sophisticated, admired yet extremely boring book, that you’ld never read but would like everyone to think you do. Or the love film you rent just to show some chick that you’re a sensitive guy.*)
(Ok, maybe all this doesn’t apply to porn.)
What’s most interesting about Facebook Ads is that its it’s better than Google search ads in at least two ways:
1) Google speaks to consumers that already know what they’re looking for, whereas many times we end up buying products that we didn’t even know about, or could have felt the need for. They become appealing only when someone else (ads, PR, friends…) is introducing them to us
2) Google mostly leads brands to consumers that are ahead in the purchase process, and are looking for functional informations about a product (and that’s always considered its strength), whereas a lot of interest towards a product is built earlier on in the purchase process (when you’re not even necessarily thinking about buying it)
Facebook Ads can create interest towards a product/brand at any time: when you need it and when you don’t, when you’re looking for details about them, and when you’re open to being engaged and entertained. And it can even do so about products and brands that you didn’t even know about, and build a need or desire for them.
This enables advertised brands to speak to a wider audience, and do so in a less competitive environment, whereas when you’re ahead in the purchase process you’re more likely to compare google-sponsored products with competitors.
Finally, this is very consistent with what I see as the two strategic assetts of the time to come: reputation and relationships.
Firstly, users will visit Facebook’s brands pages and share purchase behavior only if those brands have a relevant/appealing/significant reputation.
Secondly, what Facebook is offering brands is a network of unique relationships that will be up to the brands to mantain and leverage.
Final Burp: Facebook Ads leverages on existing users’ relationships and brands’ reputation. But the source of a brand’s reputation is still most likely to come from outside.
* The sensitive guy. Doesn’t necessarily pay off.