Will Advertising Ever Really Fit into the Social Media World?

Yesterday, CNET posted a story entitled Frustrated advertisers to Facebook: Take our money — Square peg, round holeplease! The article explained that many large advertisers are annoyed because (a) there aren’t bigger display ad opportunities available on Facebook (think homepage takeovers and big box banners), and (b) they do not always get the same level of service with Facebook that they currently experience with other large, more established media companies.

“The problem is that Facebook isn’t willing to do anything different for the client that wants to spend $10,000 versus $10 million,” said a NYC ad executive to CNET.

As a former Google sales employee, I think that Facebook is just at a place where Google was about five years ago. The company is growing so quickly and probably has to achieve a certain level of revenue to justify hiring more sales people to support their ads. So, I definitely feel for their growing pains. However, I still question whether advertising has a place in social media.

I don’t need to quote statistics to explain that people trust brand and product referrals from their friends and people they know and trust, over ads they see on a website. Facebook has been very careful so far to make sure the user experience is as “ad intrusive-free” as possible – knowing that users want to hear from the people in their lives, not advertisers, on their platform.

But if a brand is looking to engage in a dialogue with their customer on Facebook, that’s a different story. So far, the conversational approach has been somewhat successful as many people “like” their favourite brands and are willing to share feedback with companies when prompted on Facebook. But are all brands spending the advertising/marketing dollars they should to capitalize on that dialogue? Of course, that money wouldn’t currently go to Facebook but rather to people who manage those conversations. Still, those marketing dollars could be maximized by supporting the creation of engaging Facebook conversations all the same.

In a media world where niche targeting is everything, and algorithms are focused on helping people to refine the reach of those niches, it’s surprising that advertisers want to spend so much money on the website – just because it reaches 900 million people. Hasn’t the ad world been preaching targeted vs. mass reach advertising over the past 10 to 20 years anyhow?

Still, to make those mass reach advertisers happy, perhaps Facebook could offer more premium customization of their timeline profiles – similar to how YouTube provides advertisers with premium brand channel opportunities in exchange for a bigger ad spend. I also wouldn’t be surprised to soon see the opportunity for brands to pay for richer customer dialogue and analytics features in the near future. But when it comes to increasing big brand ad exposure alongside user-to-user dialogue, I think Facebook is wise to keep the user experience focused on the “social” rather than the “media.”

What do you think? I’d love to hear about your experience in advertising vs. engaging in customer dialogues on Facebook.

Image source: iStockPhoto.com

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