Marketers Want a Piece of Facebook

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facebook1.jpgADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — No one doubts that Facebook is a growing phenomenon, a fact proven by founder Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that over 150 million people worldwide have signed onto the service.

But yet, there are still skeptics who wonder, “What’s in it for Marketers?”

The latest reports show that advertising within Social Networks isn’t working very well, according to recent studies from IDC and eMarketer. The majority of people use social networks to connect and communicate with friends and family, and – surprise, surprise – it turns out people searching for old friends on Facebook aren’t very receptive to clicking on ads.

A late November study from IDC found that, because people are engaged in specific tasks on social networks (updating their status message, uploading photos, sending party invitations etc.), they have little interest in clicking on ads during these sessions. In fact, just 57% of consumers on social networks have clicked on an ad, while 79% of Internet-wide consumers had.
Even more disappointing for marketers who’ve thrown buckets of money at social network advertising: social network consumers make fewer purchases as a result of clicking on an ad by about half, compared to Internet-wide consumers.

As marketers realize much of their social network ad spending is not generating ROI, they’re, unsurprisingly, reining in budgets. In eMarketer’s study from early December, the research firm lowered its projections for social network ad revenue this year and into the foreseeable future.

According to eMarketer, marketers will spend $1.2 billion on social network advertising this year, down from an original projection of $1.4 billion. In the recessionary climate of 2009, will see an even sharper drop in total spending; eMarketer has updated its previous estimate of $1.8 billion in 2009 spending down to $1.3 billion. Why are advertisers cutting spending? Because, right now, social network advertising “cannot always demonstrate a proven return on investment,” says the study.

So why haven’t ads on social networks been more effective? For one, MySpace and Facebook made a crucial mistake: they assumed people would be more interested in ads just because they were delivered in a more personal, social setting. But an ad, is an ad, is an ad. They don’t magically perform better or do more for your brand just because they are located inside the Internet equivalent of the ‘cool new nightclub’.

Think of it like this: just because you drive by a billboard every day right next to your house doesn’t make you any more likely to call the phone number listed on it than if you pass the billboard once a year on a drive to your grandma’s house. The same holds true for social network advertising. Placement alone doesn’t guarantee better ad ROI. To get people to click on your ad, it has to be catchy, have an unbelievable offer, engage consumers in a new way, and/or be extremely targeted – no matter where it’s placed.

But just because social network advertising hasn’t delivered on all its mega promises doesn’t mean that all social marketing should be lumped into the same bucket. In fact, many forms of social marketing are extremely effective, measurable, and deliver excellent ROI. The key is to use the social medium as a tool in your overall strategy to connect deeply with your customers – and not simply as conduit in which to dump ads and hope for the best.

Marketers that want to be successful with social marketing initiatives have to get “back to basics”: connect, build trust, engage, listen, learn, demonstrate empathy, reward advocacy, give things away, thank people for their support, ask for their ideas, hold hands, smile, help, and build a community of likeminded people helping each other live better. (Yes, it sounds something like the town grocer of yore, and you should think of your marketing initiatives in this way today, because the era of blasting general messages to people and hoping for some to stick is over; we’ve entered an era of personalization whether marketers like it or not.)

The good news is, social marketing is one of the best ways to connect with consumers on a personal level. But if it doesn’t work just to put your ads on Facebook and MySpace, what can you do to run a highly successful social marketing program? Here are few tried-and-true social marketing strategies that deliver real ROI.

How many times do we have to say it? Content is king. People will forward songs, movies, films, jokes, or any kind of media to friends, if the content is worthy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Microsoft Songstream ad, or a mashed-up Barack Obama video. Create and distribute only the best quality content, because good content gets forwarded (and thus creates more traffic and traction for your brand.)

Sales aren’t everything. Even in today’s economy, there is real, measurable value in branding. Sure, you want to know the click-through rate on your Facebook ads, but there is also value in someone seeing that ad out of the corner of their eye several hundred times. This type of impact is harder to measure than click-through, but with the right tools (and there are several fantastic social media measurement tools out there), you can quantify the impact of social media campaigns on your brand image. If your product is relevant and useful – and especially if you launch a corresponding mass media campaign, you social media ad is providing value, even if views don’t convert directly into sales.

Social media extends the “life” of your creative. As an add-on, your agency should be delivering an extended and “re-mixed” versions of your ads. These mashed-up versions of your creative can then be parceled out to video and image-sharing sites, to bloggers who evangelize your products, and just in general “leaked” to sites where your target customers hang out online. It really doesn’t take much, and that 30-second ad you paid a mint for can be turned into a 60-second or even 5-minute clip. Hey, you can even invite people to add their own touches to your add on UGC mash-up sites. Couple this fantastic alternative creative with a few paid ads across a property, and you’ll get tremendous branding and conversion results.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. It is amazing to see the huge sums sent into social marketing networks from VCs, angels and marketers.

    To me, it seems to make more sense to step back and understand how to better spend online marketing dollars starting with a focused set of marketing communities – I’ll bet the best answerers are nowhere near $1.2 billion, but then, I’m a bit biased. ;-)

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