(or How we are learning to love personalisation)
At a recent conference Mark Zuckerberg, the 23 year old boss of Facebook was talking to 250 or so “middle aged” advertising executives about the news ways that Facebook envisaged advertising developing. His thoughts are indeed interesting. “For the last 100 years media has been pushed out to people, but now marketers are going to be part of the conversation”.
That phrase - 'Part of the conversation’ caught my eye. What does it mean to you?
If advertisers are going to be part of the conversation, will we let them in? What would make us do so? and once they are in the conversation how can they add value to that conversation, or are they there just to extract value through sales? If so, will it be a short term visit to the conversation?
Advertisers engaging with a community in a social networking environment create an interesting new way of presenting old products and services. We know that on Social Networks on line promoting products or services has a strongly negative effect (if handled badly) but that building relationships, “joining in the conversation”, can create an opportunity to build advocacy and brand awareness very fast. The trick for most of us is to find the opinion leader within the community. When we influence their opinion, they influence others opinion on our behalf. Good or bad.
But social networking creates an opportunity for advertisers to eavesdrop a conversation as well as take part of it. That creates a difficulty for all of us in that the things that we communicate about are seen by those who are silent. Silent but not inactive. They are reading and assimilating the knowledge they gain in order to be able to better position their products and services for us. That’s no bad thing, for, if we are approached for the things we need at the time we need them with a product or service that meets that need and is good value then none of us will complain. The question is can they be good enough at acquiring this skill?
The development of internet advertising
The first type of advertising on the internet was display adverts or banner adverts, usually in the form of large graphical boxes on the webpage. Something that we are used to seeing on websites like Ecademy (www.ecademy.com). The rise of streaming websites both for audio and video such as YouTube and Google Video have enabled advertisers to be more viral in their efforts to attract our attention. Creating a great advert means that many social networking people will share and embed the video in many places creating far greater reach than the advertisers could have expected without the social networking phenomenon.
Examples of this include the Cadbury’s Dairy Milk gorilla playing the drums to a Phil Collins song. In addition advertising is going inline as well as online and many classified ads now only appear on the online world sometimes embedded (inline) in the text of website. Large advertising companies (e.g. Google) are becoming every smarter at interpreting words on web pages and integrating links even when the links were not conceived at the time of writing by the author. In addition search advertising has grown dramatically. Google ad words are appearing on many sites and the revenue sharing models they have developed encourage many people to incorporate advertising on their websites for a share of the revenue that is generated as a result.
The impact on advertisers
Many advertising agencies, particularly the smaller ones, are having to become much more savvy very quickly and some are merging and others collapsing as advertising revenue moves from traditional means on paper to magazines and on television to alternative multi media means in which social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace play a critical role.
are now joining the social networking revolution creating profile pages from
individuals within the companies and as the companies themselves. On MySpace film companies have been creating
profiles and identities for films and the characters in them and accepting friend’s
requests from other users creating communities around their product, the film. As
the film develops in the offline world at the cinema and the word spreads more
people are drawn to the persona of that film in the social networking
environment also becoming friends and therefore becoming targets for
advertising when the DVD is released. With the millions involved in MySpace the effort required to create that
route to market seems to be worth it. Facebook announced this week that it would allow brands to create their
own pages Coca Cola has a Sprite page (http://www.facebook.com/spritesips) along with games related to the drink. – For
those without a Facebook account the main site is here: http://www.obeyyourthirst.co.uk/ - but in Facebook you can now be a Sprite fan. It's visual brand advocacy.
The viral marketing impact of Facebook and its newsfeeds means that anyone who signs up to this page is immediately broadcasting the fact that they have done so to their friends through the newsfeeds on Facebook, that naturally attracts in more people, more friends, more people, more friends. Facebook has also announced an intention to integrate the activity of members on other sites into those news feeds where permission has been given. That means that over time almost all of your activity on the web could be being announced in news feeds within Facebook to your friends. Advertisers love it. When you purchase a new pair of shoes and your friends are aware that you’ve been purchasing shoes a manufacturer of shoe protection products might well start feeding you information in relation to waterproofing or polishing the item that you have just bought. A trivial example, that one that indicates that our activity on-line is becoming much more a conversation than a transaction.
The advertisers who get this right, who deliver to us the right products or service at the right price at the time we need will cling up. The ones who get it wrong could considerably destroy the brands behind the advertising. Viral marketing works two ways, when its working for you its one of the most powerful ways to get a message out, but when it works against you it is incredibly destructive.
One thing is certain, the face of advertising is changing. The need for more contextual advertising is clear and the willingness of brands and businesses to engage at the conversation in a social networking environment is becoming more paramount. I think that means that we will see more businesses and brands seeking to join sites like Ecademy where the conversation is more business focused. Especially where brands are in the business to business rather than business to consumer markets. I wonder what that means for advertising on Ecademy, for their own advertising revenue generation models, and the impact that it has on us, the members. Time will tell, and I suspect quite soon.