Facebook: Socialize Media to Target Ads

In the Q&A following Mark Zuckerberg’s F8 keynote today, he was asked how brand advertising will change. His reply? Ads are becoming more social.

Sure, Facebook will still feature display ads on its pages. Stay tuned for açai berry diets and special deals on tooth-whitening for alums of [fill-in-your-alma-mater].

But the apps featured today at F8 are media apps, offering Facebook users (billions of them) new ways to consume content: music, movies, news and books, without leaving the confines of Facebook.  Spotfiy, Hulu, Netflix, Yahoo and the Washington Post are some of the first to offer content within apps within Facebook.

Some initial thoughts.

Discovery & Curation: More media will be consumed on and within Facebook (inevitable, given the size of its user base). At present, Facebook is the fourth-largest referrer to content sites, according to a recent Outbrain study. As more content purveyors offer more app-based content within Facebook itself, that balance could well shift. Publishers will have to consider enclosing their content within Facebook apps to promote discovery and sharing, or risk losing traffic and eyeballs.

New Value Exchange: The traditional media value exchange has always been that users spend a portion of the time they spend consuming content being exposed to advertising. Currently, the WaPo Facebook app displays no ads (this could well change). Instead, if a user clicks an article, they spread it. Their friends are notified that they’re reading such-and-such, encouraging more discovery and click through.

Users will be targeted by advertisers based on what they listened to, watched or read. Sure, a concert promoter can try to sell you tickets to Lady Gaga, if that’s what you’re into. But it goes deeper than that. In a conversation a couple of years ago with Spotify founder Daniel Ek, he confirmed the assumption that it probably (for example) makes more sense to market black leather jackets to heavy metal fans than try to sell them yogurt drinks. You get the idea.

Changing Media Consumption Patterns: With Facebook’s ginormous user base, it’s going to be interesting to see how content consumption patterns shift. Apps are becoming sophisticated; they “learn” what individual users like and display content accordingly. Friends and connections become one anothers’ content curators. Will users become overwhelmed by the flow, or embrace purportedly more targeted content? Will this accelerate or put the brakes on a growing degree of social media fatigue?

Only time will tell.

Content/App Marketing: These days, brands are as much publishers as publishers are. Expect them (particularly lifestyle brands) to jump into the content creation business with both feet. Not that they haven’t already, but apps will now become an urgently compelling channel for branded and utility content.

Facebook is saying they have no plans for an app store at present. They’re trusting users to recommend apps to one another. As advertisers get into the game, they’ll likely push to change this rather than rely exclusively on word-of-mouth. Expect display campaigns to feature get-the-app calls to action, too.

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