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Facebook Ads – what does it ACTUALLY mean?

Henry Elliss
Henry Elliss
Managing Director
7 November 2007

by Henry Elliss

So, the internet is in a frenzy today with news of the ‘Facebook Ads’ roll-out – but what will it actually mean, both to the average Facebook user and to brands and companies? Based on the announcement as it has been made in the official Facebook Blog (rather than any other website which is now speculating on it), I’m going to attempt to unravel it for us all now…

First off, let’s reiterate something that Facebook are also making great pains to clarify – the new system is NOT going to mean your Facebook page becomes cluttered up with any more banner ads than you currently see – which is one per page, most of the time. The purpose of the system seems to be to make the ads you DO see more relevant to you, which can surely only be a good thing, can’t it…?

The first part of the announcement concentrates on Facebook Pages (NB. I’d put a link there, but they don’t seem to have added any way to navigate to a central ‘Facebook Pages’ page yet…) – basically, these seem to be a hybrid of the current sponsored group system and regular profiles / groups. Brands, companies, musicians, artists, celebrities (etc) will now be able to have their own official ‘page’, which acts in roughly the same way as a profile does for us regular Joes. The brand will be able to add widgets and applications, allow fans to post reviews, start discussions, post special offers and many other ‘new’ features which have previously existed – but not all in the same place.

Conchords

In order to start the ball rolling, Facebook have already started over 100,000 ‘pages’ for big brands and organisations, as well as creating musician pages (see above) for almost every artist on iLike (though some are strangely missing – why can’t I be a Beastie Boys fan, damnit?!). Interesting, the music element seems to be an official tie-up with iLike, though whether this means I can remove the iLike application now or not is yet to be tested…?

Consequently this also seems to negate the need to join a group centred around anything brand-related if you don’t actually want to regularly interact with the brand / group / person. Instead you can just choose to become a ‘fan’ of the brand and go about your business – choosing at the outset whether or not to let that brand update you with news or announcements in your feed (and presumably by extension, in your friends feeds too). So it’s the end of me needing to join the group ‘I love Ben Folds he’s the best musician ever’ and instead adding myself as a fan to the ‘Ben Folds’ page – and saving a lot of space on my profile too, bonus! Obviously I will still choose to join groups based around causes or fun topics – ‘Bob Crow and the RMT are a bunch of w***ers‘ is unlikely to get an official page…

What this MEANS for advertisers is that the prospect of highly-tailored advertising is now a reality. We’ve all been talking about this for a while, but now that the ‘Facebook Pages’ system is live these ads are also now being rolled out as a reality. As a ‘for instance’, if I as a marketeer was charged with the task of promoting Victoria Beckham’s new perfume, I could choose to only show my ads to people who had marked themselves as a fan of ‘Victoria Beckham’, ‘David Beckham’, ‘The Spice Girls’ and ‘Boots Perfumes’ (for example). The benefit of this is obvious to everyone – less wastage, better targetting and much better ROI.

Feedad

The final big announcement is around the new facility for external sites like Amazon to post messages relating to your purchases in your feed – and your friends feeds. But before the privacy police go crazy, it’s all going to be opt-in only. So, if I as a consumer add the latest Harry Potter books to my wishlist on Amazon, I might be asked (by Amazon) if I want to let them publish a note about this in my friend’s feeds. The benefit of this for brands is obvious, but the benefit to Facebook users is less obvious..

My personal take on this is that it’s all part of Facebook’s quest to be the centre of your online life – something that in my case it’s very close to doing anyway, let’s be honest. If I as a consumer were to download the latest Kate Nash album from iTunes (presuming iTunes took part in this facility), other friends who are also fans of this artist might then invite me to her next concert with them – or lend me her first album. That seems like a reasonable benefit to me – and since it’s opt-in only, if I don’t like the idea I can just ignore it. Fine.

Obviously the true success of these new features will only be revealed once everybody has got used to them and opted in or out of the various elements. There’s bound to be an outcry at first, but we should not forget that the reaction of the Facebook community was one of absolute horror when they first switched to the ‘My Feed’ page format – but now it’s accepted to be one of the best features the site has. The same happened when Photo tagging came along, but now that’s by far one of Facebook’s most popular features. I for one am pleased to see that Facebook are still innovating, and not simply choosing to emulate other social networks like some people seem to be doing…

this is Henry's profile

UPDATE: After only a few hours, Facebook seem to have pulled down all the Music pages – including the examples I gave above. Speculation is ripe over why this might be, could iLike have expressed some dislike of the arrangement, or have people been attempting to hack the system already? Only time will tell…

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