Newton would have loved the Internet. Like all great scientists, he thrived on discovery, even when that discovery led to full-scale disruption. The Internet is rich with disruptive potential, and has already revolutionized media, commerce and communications. And the media, commerce and communications aspects of every industry from Home Improvement to Travel & Tourism, from Politics to Waste Management, has been turned upside down in the process.
It’s hard not to get excited at Facebook’s new advertising programs. Never mind that they’ve started a great buzzword soup of social media, word-of-mouth and advanced targeting, or that there may finally be some hope of monetizing about a gazillion page views per month. I’m a fan of Facebook because their advertising grows out of the same exact conditions that have allowed widget marketing to flourish over the past year. In fact, I would posit that were it not for widget marketing’s shoulders to stand on, Facebook wouldn’t have nearly the perspective it needs to set out in the direction it did. So to Facebook, I offer a hearty “You’re welcome.”
Facebook’s programs couldn’t have been launched a year ago as there were necessary industry pre-cursors that needed to develop such as widget marketing, social networks and personal publishing.
Facebook’s program is a logical progression of where the industry was headed. But they are exciting because they’re also aligned with Marketers’ trajectory. Unlike most other disruptions that came before (AdSense, Search, discounted online retail plays), if executed well Facebook’s programs (like widget marketing) will be brand enhancing.
I don’t anticipate a direct impact on widget monetization as a result of what Facebook is rolling out. But Facebook is huge – both in user base and industry cache, so any successes advertisers achieve through Facebook will prompt the industry to look more closely at the advertising value of widgets. In fact, I’d expect the first advertisers to run some productive campaigns through Facebook are those who have been honing their widget marketing skills over the past year. The Facebook program is similar to widget marketing in that the success of campaigns is based largely on personal recommendations through networked groups. Both require an understanding of message quality over audience quantity.
Freewebs has been the leader in widget marketing so far with campaigns running for top brands including Universal, Reebok, Paramount Pictures, Adidas and Cingular. Facebook is not to social media as Google is to search. There are a lot of other networks out there, with different user bases and attributes. If Facebook whets advertisers’ appetites for marketing programs that work with – not against – social media environments, it can only benefit Freewebs. We’ve been creating custom widgets for advertisers to run on our sites for over a year. But we’re glad Facebook is trying to catch up, and I think as more innovative programs are introduced into social media marketing, advertisers everywhere around the world will be the biggest winners.
I think privacy will prove to be less of an issue in social media than it is in search or mobile or desktop advertising, simply because audiences are extremely fickle and every single senior executive at every single social network loses a lot of sleep worrying about how they’ll keep from losing their customers to the next big thing. Their relationships are fragile, which creates a self-policing environment. You can’t burn your customers many times before they’ll move on. “Optimize” at your own risk.
Will Facebook’s advertising be successful? If their objective is to encourage marketers to rethink advertising within the social graph, Facebook’s programs were successful before they even launched.