Facebook advertising: Marketing vs. stalking?

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As search and marketing evolve, new advances – particularly Facebook’s recent re-launch of its Atlas ad platform, which measures ad campaigns across screens and allows brands to target real people across mobile and the web – pose questions like how much is too much tracking, and how will consumers react to brands becoming more targeted in their marketing efforts? With careful targeting, tracking, and second screen integration, brands can easily nurture their relationships with customers.

However, at some point, will consumers equate marketing to stalking?

Advertising is often the first point of contact between brands and customers, and advertisers need to be careful about targeting too narrowly. The temptation is certainly ripe. Unlike TV and print marketing, where broad brand messages are ideal, appropriately targeting all possible demographics in one fell swoop is entirely possible online. With search, brands can target a specific set of customers on Google, a different set on Facebook, and even another set on their mobile platform. With the availability of all these different platforms, brands can easily fall victim to overly diversifying platform experiences.

While your brand should certainly hone its specific ad text for each platform, make sure that the underlying brand message is uniform across all mediums, platforms, and devices. Optimize your paid and natural search keywords and landing pages with the same core messaging, in case someone sees your Facebook ad, followed by your TV ad, and then visits your site via natural search.

Furthermore, knowing exactly how to target your audience may well be on its way to becoming easier, and Facebook may be change’s key facilitator. As previously mentioned, Facebook has re-launched its Atlas ad platform, now making ad purchasing on non-Facebook owned properties possible. Facebook is already essentially already a data provider – you can use its rich source of audience data for your marketing needs (as long as you are buying Facebook inventory). But, if Facebook does indeed follow the path trekked by other data providers out there (like BlueKai, eXcelate, etc.), they will start allowing advertisers to buy audience data through other exchanges or DSP’s like DoubleClick Bid Manager.   

This move makes sense for Facebook, as marketers are constantly searching for the most descriptive information available about their target audiences, and Facebook generates just that. This kind of deep data has a higher potential for accuracy than buying audience segments that are based on assumptions. Keeping these blossoming opportunities in mind, here are three tips to help marketers successfully walk that increasingly fine line between marketing and stalking:

Retarget Wisely

It’s imperative to exercise both caution and transparency when setting up data generating tools. Be careful when setting up your retargeting audience lists. Set list durations based on your average sales cycle, or average time it takes a consumer to take the final desired action. By default, many audience lists are set for 30 days, while larger commitment conversions or purchase cycles may require 60 – 90 days before the decision is made.

If your customer has not converted in 90 days, they have either chosen a different brand/service provider or decided not to buy your product and will probably feel turned off by a brand’s continued contact.

Do not hit that customer with the same ad all over the web for weeks, or even days. A few appearances of a remarketing campaign after a consumer’s initially unsuccessful brand site visit might bring that consumer back for more, but eventually, these instances should taper off. Make sure to also use a negative converted audience list to filter out all consumers who have already bought or registered for your product/service. Customers have become acutely aware of when and how they are tracked, and if it’s overdone, will start to feel stalked.

Offer Opt-Outs

Offer clear and simple opt-outs for customers who do not want to be tracked. Once they click the leave me alone button, leave them alone. Do not send a final email saying sorry you don’t want to be tracked, but remember, here’s our offer. We’re here waiting for you. While good intentioned, these sorts of messages undoubtedly leave consumers feeling tailed, hurting any future relationship with a brand.

Mind Mobile

As second screen use gains prevalence, brands must be extremely careful with how they collect, store, and use gathered data. The same tracking timelines apply on mobile devices that apply on desktop. Opt-outs need to be simple, especially on a mobile device. Brands can also expand opt-ins to offer customers more options.

For example, if customers perform a search on their mobile phone after seeing your brand’s TV ad, offer them the option of receiving text alerts when the item is available at a local store, or a map of local stores where that item is in stock. Do not launch their phone navigation application or send unrequested alerts when they happen to be near one of your stores unless they have opted-in to receiving alerts. Options make consumers feel cared for, rather than ambushed.

When engaged properly, your customers will tell you what they want. When consumers search your site, keep track of what they look for, what they buy, and any changes in their shopping needs. With these records, you can offer an array of different options for continued contact better suited to both customer and brand needs, without crossing that thin line between marketing to stalking.

Aryn Kennedy is the SEO Content Manager at The Search Agency, one of the largest independent search marketing firms in the U.S.

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