March 06, 2013

Facebook's Emerging Ad Strategy If you pay attention, you can begin to see Facebook’s ad sales strategy coming together. The announcement that Facebook is buying Atlas from Microsoft comes on the heels of Facebook’s announcement of big data alliances. The pieces of Facebook’s future advertising juggernaut are emerging. First, figure out how to better engage advertisers by cross-tabbing and de-duping their CRM databases with Facebook fan bases so they can plan ads and campaigns more effectively. Second align with big data suppliers to enable segmentation building, intense precise targeting and personalization. Third, use the Atlas infrastructure to build more ways to dice and slice Facebook audiences and to serve Facebook ads with better precision and metrics. The game plan directly addresses the biggest objections in adland. The Atlas buy feels like a play to accelerate building infrastructure rather than developing a new third-party ad-serving revenue stream. The value of Atlas, widely considered second tier behind Google’s Doubleclick platform, is a head start on proving the impact and value of Facebook ads to a growing number of skeptical advertisers. With Atlas in-hand, Facebook programmers and strategists can start modifying and adding onto an existing platform, which will give them something to brag about and sell more inventory sooner. The combination of these three moves will allow Facebook to answer many of the outstanding questions on targeting, impact, metrics and ROI by big name advertisers who have embraced social media advertising tepidly. Data-centricity will fuel better targeting, tighter message strategies and the ability to drive sales in real time. The mother lode of data emerging from the combination of sources, not to mention Facebook profiles, will yield a huge competitive edge in identifying likely prospects, building propensity-to-buy models, scheduling ads and forecasting or driving sales in real time. Add this information to growing opportunities for advertisers to track conversion events like registrations or checkouts and the possibly inadvertent slip exposing a new metric called “return value” and you might get the idea that at Facebook, social media is morphing into direct and database marketing.
Dissecting Facebook's Newsfeed Re-Design Facebook’s Newsfeed re-design, the first since this feature was introduced in 2006, is aimed at increasing engagement, expanding time spent on the social network, overcoming Facebook fatigue and creating more inventory and more interoperability for advertisers. As usual Zuckerberg & Company will benignly dictate how a billion people see, interact and use the platform now described as “a personalized newspaper.” The new design emphasizes larger pictures, cleaner lines and new content streams that will look and feel the same across devices. This recognizes the fact that today a huge number of users access Facebook on tablets and smartphones and that those numbers will continually grow. Let’s look at the key changes. Bigger Pictures. 50% of Facebook user posts are pictures. The Newsfeed has become a defacto photo sharing service and archive. It makes sense to improve the things your customers like best. Increasing the size of pictures, encouraging higher resolution, making it easier to upload albums (multiple pictures) and bumping up the size of thumbnails posted by friends and brands all cater to existing behavior. Increasing image sizes will make the Newsfeed more magazine-like. In some cases it will do so while 2/3rds of screen is devoted to ads, which also will be bigger and clearer. More Discrete Content Streams. By separating out streams of activity by topic, Facebook hopes to create content segments and improve time spent on site by offering users a way to circumvent the Edgerank filtering algorithm. Separate streams featuring music, video, games and music could become ad-supported channels. Users will have the option to see all the content posted by friends, most of which is filtered out today, by selecting “all friends” or from brands that a user likes by selecting “following.” Ideally this will give users more control and more incentive to stay longer and dig deeper into the content they care about most. It will also create opportunities to create inventory for heavily advertised categories where consumers frequently interact with each other. Consistent UI. Facebook will look the same on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. This is the first step toward creating a 24/7-device agnostic seamless brand experience. This too, will encourage more frequent access and dramatically improve the mobile experience. Down the road Facebook will sell roadblock ad packages that work across devices to enable brands to make bigger, bolder splashes. The implications, of the Newsfeed redesign, for brands and advertisers are four-fold. 1. Brands, like consumers, will have to be more visual using more, better, higher resolution images to get their messages across. Ads will get bigger and more intrusive. 2. Segmented channels and clusters of users will become available. Brands have to decide the tone, manner, content and frequency with which they will approach them. 3. Users will have more control over access to their Newsfeeds. Brands will have to earn the right to greater access and sharing by focusing on content and relevance. 4. Advertisers will need to understand when and how users access Facebook and plan or parse content and ads to optimize awareness, preference and action.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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