People are shocked when Facebook launches new ad products every few days — targeting your search queries, what sites you’ve been to, or taking your Facebook information and injecting it into other websites. You can even upload customer email lists and phone numbers to Facebook, too. But if you want Facebook to be able to measure your return on investment, it must know who the friends are of all your fans.
Facebook is “word-of-mouth marketing at scale,” in its own words. That means they must identify who is influencing who. If someone doesn’t need the help of friends to make a purchase decision, or if they aren’t likely to share this decision, it doesn’t belong on Facebook.
Cosmetic surgeons and attorneys ask us if we can do viral marketing campaigns, which is usually translated to, “I don’t have much money or interesting content, but I’d like big brand traffic.” Do you know of women who want to broadcast to their friends that the doctor sucked fat out of their butts or are going through a messy divorce?
Can You Get People To Talk About Your Brand?
Here is the social sharing continuum from high-power to low-power.
- Does some form of association with your brand enhance your customers’ egos?
- Do you have a product that lends itself to sharing via a check-in, mention, or event?
- Do you have insanely creative content that is funny or interesting, even if your service is boring?
- Can you give something away that is still loosely associated with what you do, where number of entries into the contest is based on sharing?
On one end, people gladly share their brand preferences with friends publicly — these are premium brands in entertainment, fashion, and electronics.
On the other end, it’s Phyllis asking Janice whether she is feeling fresh today, or it’s business-to-business and niche technical stuff.
But regardless, Facebook needs your customers to tell it who their friends are, what they like, where they’ve been, and what they’re currently doing. In word-of-mouth marketing, we have to capture people talking about your brand — whether that’s in the coffee shop, email thread, Facebook status, or cell phone conversation.
Without that information, how can Facebook truly show you the impact of your efforts on Facebook, whether organic or paid?
Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg knows that the measurement of social ROI occurs offline. Certainly, he would like for every single communication you have with friends to exclusively course through the Facebook ecosystem of properties and partners. But until Uncle Sam and Uncle Mark are one (a topic of another discussion about hats and tinfoil), we have to pull in point-of-sale receipts, email marketing programs, and any such data about your friends we can get our hands on.
Five years ago, we met with the Federal Trade Commission at tits request to share some social ad research we did on the Facebook developer platform. This was back when ad networks on Facebook could freely use the entire user databases of game developers for the purposes of serving ads. So when you clicked “allow” to a particular “ville” or other game, you were also giving us your information and that of your friends to inject into ads. This was a sponsored story three years before Facebook came out with this product themselves.
We tested the impact of showing your closest friends’ activity inside the ad versus just a random set of friends. As you’d expect, the ads with close friends got five times to 10 times the response rates.
We experimented with using ad targeting based only on what we knew about that particular user (no friend data), versus ad targeting based only on what we knew about that user’s friends (excluding that user’s data). No surprise, the ads based on friends’ interests and demographics walloped the user-only ads.
I wrote a TechCrunch article “How to Spam Facebook Like a Pro,” which covered some of the mechanics of social targeting.
So if I’m Facebook, at 1 billion users, I couldn’t care less about trying to get more users. It’s far easier to triple the amount of information I have on each user than to triple my user base (impossible, since Facebook already has one-half of all people online).
I know that an ad targeted at someone right when they’re about to buy something is worth a thousand more than an untargeted ad for colored sugar water. So I want you to give me all your friends’ info immediately. Click on links to easily import them in a single click. Put our social widgets on your site so that we can cookie all these users and retarget them wherever they go.
The previously “infrared” layer of word of mouth is now becoming visible.
Dennis Yu has helped brands grow and measure their Facebook presences. He has spoken at Search Marketing Expo, Search Engine Strategies, Web 2.0, The American Marketing Association, PubCon, Conversational Commerce Conference, Pacific Conferences, HostingCon, Affiliate Summit, Affiliate Convention, UltraLight Startups, MIVA Merchant, and other venues. Yu has also counseled the Federal Trade Commission on privacy issues for social networks. Yu has held leadership positions at Yahoo and American Airlines. His educational background is finance and economics from Southern Methodist University and London School of Economics.