No “Friends” For Digital Marketers

No “Friends” For Digital MarketersBoo-hoo.

Social networking’s second boom—in the form of advertising frenzy—could go bust. That’s because of said frenzy backfiring, the research firm Comscore reported. We hate to say it, but we told you so.

First, a little background: The year 2007 marked the resurgence of social networks as the “it” thing in communications technology. Since their proliferation earlier this decade, social sites had proved their appeal to consumers of all ages. Even the college-centric Facebook became open to everyone. Time came for network purveyors and marketers to leverage this appeal—with “behaviorally-targeted” ads, which use software to track a Web-surfer’s actions and then serve up advertisements based on those actions.

Behaviorally targeted advertising became one of the biggest buzzwords for digital marketers in 2007. They dreamed that all their adverts would be eagerly received by Internet users since the ads would tout things in which the users seemed to be interested. And since the basis of social networks is “friends”— whether real life or cyberspace buddies—marketers thought they could enjoy more conversions by sharing users’ purchases with the acquaintances who appear on their profile pages.

But surprise, surprise: Social network users are starting to get sick of being bombarded with ads, behaviorally-targeted or otherwise. At least, that’s according to ComScore, which said that the amount of time social networkers spend on these sites has fallen by 14 percent. MySpace, the biggest social site, saw users fall from 72 million in October to 68.9 million in December.

We knew it. Even behaviorally-targeted ads are no match for message campaigns that consumers actually sign up to receive.

That’s because unlike permission-based messages, behaviorally-targeted ads appear regardless of whether the user wants them. Indeed, a 27-year-old business analyst from Florida initially joined Facebook under pressure from his real-life friends, but quit because he got sick of the deluge of targeted advertisements. He traded in his social network profile for a blog that costs him $6 per month, telling MSNBC, “It’s worth it to not have to look at the ads.”

Plus, permission-based messaging campaigns are proven to work. The ROI of email alone will hit $45.65 for every dollar spent in 2008, more than twice the ROI of other media, says Datran Media. Compare that with this admission of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, whose company has failed to generate as much revenue from social network ads as initially expected: “I don’t think we have the killer, best way to advertise and monetize social networks yet.”

Digital marketers should wait before delving heavily into behavioral ads, lest they sour the consumer base from ever becoming receptive to them. Meanwhile, they should continue to engage in permission-based message campaigns—which, since they require customers to sign up to receive them, are kind of behaviorally targeted anyway.

Eydie Cubarrubia
Marketing Communications Manager, mobileStorm
“I’d rather you text me”

 

2 Responses

  1. Kelly Rusk says:

    While I will definitely not argue permission marketing is the way to go, I can't say I agree with what you're saying.

    Yes, advertising on social networks has gone down, because it's not *new* anymore, and users are dropping off (though while Myspace saw a large drop, I bet Facebook saw a huge increase, as many jump from one social fad to the next and eventually settle into the most appropriate niche site) However, I doubt people are leaving sites because of ads, what about those super annoying Facebook apps? I'd say a more justifiable reason to leave!

    Back to permission messages though–how do you build your list? BT ads are a great way to reach many and build a clean, high quality database.

    Basically I think you are comparing apples and oranges, the two should work together, not against each other.

    my 2 cents!

  2. Eydie says:

    Kelly, you are absolutely right that all types of marketing–including messaging and BT ads–should come together if a marketer wants the most comprehensive campaign possible.

    At the same time, human nature has us marketers all scrambling towards the "next big thing," and we're sometimes tempted to put all our eggs in that gilded basket. By pointing out the problems with a new form like BT, I was hoping to emphasize that it isn't the be-all, end-all method of marketing that some might think. I wanted to reiterate that it's wise to stick with proven methods while proceeding cautiously with newe ones.

    As to your question about building a list with/for permission-based messages: The answer comes in your statement about different types of campaigns "working together." Permission messaging is "push" (proactive) rather than "pull" (reactive), requiring people to sign up, on their own volition. To get people to sign up, a brand should employ several methods, such as: Having salespeople ask customers to sign up during checkout; having a form on one's website that people can fill out to sign up to get messages; advertising a short code on everything from billboards to print to online ads–even behaviorally-targeted ones! (To entice people to sign up, you can promise free/discounted merchandise/services or other special offers.)

    After or during sigh-up, you can ask subscribers not just for their contact information, but also demographic/psychograpnic info. If you have the right platform, all this information can be stored in your database. In the future, you can use this information to send highly-targeted mesages to the right customers and prospects.

    Hope that answers your question. Thanks again for reading!

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