So, word is out (although officially unannounced) that Facebook has quietly launched a new set of new social ad formats aimed at boosting click-throughs and further tapping into the social graph on behalf of marketers.
The "Engagement Ad" formats are based on three common features of social networking – commenting, becoming a fan and gifting virtual objects. Here’s how they work -
- Comment-style ads allow Facebook members to leave comments on ads, similar to what they may write on someone’s wall or comment on a photo – comment updates get spread amongst a person’s network for ads the same way they do with personal updates
- Virtual gifts that users can share with the gifts-style ad
- Members will be able to become a fan of a brand and, again, their network will see
This concept, is again taking the direction of turning a social network's users into marketing drones rather than using the immense amount of activity occurring on its site to make ads more relevant. This is exactly the kind of format that rewards clicks over influence, and will further alienate a user base already bruised by Beacon.
One of the biggest challenges is that the industry is trying to apply standard behavioral targeting techniques to the robust arena of user-generated content and social media. Emphasis is still placed on contextual relevance when, in reality, that metric doesn't take into account true behavior and consumer interests. People are commenting, uploading, posting, viewing videos, and using widgets. The key is to leverage this data in a way that will drive performance. Contextual relevancy doesn't capture those verbs or actions.
Facebook's history with advertising has been flawed, and its revenues continue to suffer for it publicly. The problem is that social sites don't attract the click-through rates of search advertising and the revenue numbers never catch up. One of the most critical things moving forward is understanding that within social media, click-through rates aren't the most accurate measurement of success. A truly engaged user is more valuable than a click.