The Revolutionary Affiliate Network That Could Have Been: Facebook’s Ad Platform


Facebook has released its vision of the future of marketing:

“Facebook Ads represent a completely new way of advertising online,” Zuckerberg told an audience of more than 250 marketing and advertising executives in New York. “For the last hundred years media has been pushed out to people, but now marketers are going to be a part of the conversation. And they’re going to do this by using the social graph in the same way our users do.”

Interestingly, Facebook has built in the ability for businesses and brands to create their own page on Facebook:

Zuckerberg detailed how Facebook Pages allows users to interact and affiliate [emphasis mine] with businesses and organizations in the same way they interact with other Facebook user profiles. More than 100,000 new Facebook Pages launched today covering the world’s largest brands, local businesses, organizations and bands.

“The core of every user’s experience on Facebook is their page and that’s where businesses are going to start as well,” explained Zuckerberg. “The first thing businesses can do is design a page to craft the exact experience they want people to see.”

So, how do businesses spread their marketing messages? By leveraging the social graph of users and becoming our “friends”…

Users can become a fan of a business and can share information about that business with their friends and act as a trusted referral. Facebook users can interact directly with the business through its Facebook Page by adding reviews, writing on that business’ Wall, uploading photos and in any other ways that a business may want to enable. These actions could appear in users’ Mini-Feed and News Feed, Facebook’s popular products that allow users to share information more efficiently with their friends.

Where this all comes together and really starts getting interesting to me is the inclusion of the Social Ads platform:

Facebook’s ad system serves Social Ads that combine social actions from your friends – such as a purchase of a product or review of a restaurant – with an advertiser’s message. This enables advertisers to deliver more tailored and relevant ads to Facebook users that now include information from their friends so they can make more informed decisions. No personally identifiable information is shared with an advertiser in creating a Social Ad.

More on that in a second… but how do we measure all of this “social graph” goodness?

Facebook gives marketers valuable metrics about their presence and promotion on Facebook. Facebook Insights gives access to data on activity, fan demographics, ad performance and trends that better equip marketers to improve custom content on Facebook and adjust ad targeting. Facebook Insights is a free service for all Facebook Pages and Social Ads.

So, this is a tripartite announcement of business engagement on actual Facebook pages, an ad serving platform and finally a way to track those interactions and ads.

Jeremiah Owyang has dubbed this the “Rise of the Fansumer,” which is a nice title to summarize the possibilities here for marketers of all stripes.

Going beyond just profile matching of advertisements, Facebook allows consumers to self-identify with brands and becoming fans. In turn, brands can use these “Fan-Sumers” as endorsers to their own trusted networks, resulting in trusted word-of-mouth. Brands can also self-manage their own campaigns, and there’s some unique opportunities for eCommerce widgets or applications to be part of this formula.

Jeremiah calls this a win for Facebook because it will limit the amount of non-targeted ads a user sees and enhance the concept of trusted marketing among a usage population that is not given to clicking on simple display banner ads with no relevancy or context.

Back in January of 2007, (the sadly short-lived) Evil Marketer blog predicted all of this with a post about influencer networks and twist that would have sealed a win for Facebook:

And one final commonality — the influencer and his or her recommendations, despite being the most powerful marketing force on the planet, have been almost entirely hidden from a marketer’s view or measurement.

Until now.

No, we can’t listen in to your private conversations and track a friend’s recommendation of a new movie to the actual ticket sale — yet. But most online word of mouth type marketing and all affiliate marketing (much of which is based, in some part, on an influencer recommending a product) can now be tracked, and as soon as mobile marketing takes the next step and starts letting you refer products and services and movie tickets to your friends via a trackable coupon or other incentive, then we will be watching over your shoulder, dear consumer.

The problem is that most of this is still de-centralized and segmented; Amazon reviewers, mobile marketing, social network members recommendations (especially recommendations from those with a lot of “friends”) — none of it really works together so an advertiser has a clear sense of where the influencers live and more importantly, how to get them talking about their products.

And in part 2 of the series of posts about influencer networks, we get the hook from the Evil Marketer:

The influencers in the network would choose the brands they wish to endorse (at least initially), based on genuine respect and love for the brand, but would be compensated for that endorsement. The method of endorsement and compensation for it could vary widely based on vertical and influencer “level”; a rating and/or trust system would be in place for users (both inside and outside the network) to vote in various ways to change that level.

If Facebook had allowed for some way to compensate influencer’s for their endorsements (rather than just serving them ads), Facebook would have truly had a big win on their hands… and would have really created something revolutionary in the marketing world rather than providing yet another way for brands to waste money on cheesy viral ads.

Facebook | Press Releases

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