It is about that time of year and the signs are all around: stores are filled with festive decorations in hopes of enticing early shoppers, every commercial announces the perfect gift for him or her, and the Starbucks red cups have finally made their annual appearance. Yes, it is time to pulltogether our holiday wish lists. But it's is not just you and me making lists; top brand and agency marketers are dreaming of what Facebook might give them this holiday season.
Facebook is notorious for constantly evolving its platform, both for users and advertisers. Some of these changes are welcomed, while others take time before they are embraced. Here at SocialCode, we've compiled a wish list of the top-five requests we're hearing from brand marketers:
1. More control over brand status updates.
On October 5, 2011 on the heels of the F8, Facebook's annual developer's conference, Facebook launched a new and improved version of their Insights product - an analytics tool that enables brand page managers to measure theimpact of brand pages. The changes to the product are fantastic, but many brands now have multiple millions of followers on Facebook and are still are hungry for more nuanced ways to understand and communicate with them. SocialCode frequently hears marketers express the desire for more precise ways to message their fans. This would mean in addition to the ability to post messages to fans in certain geographic locations, enabling brands to message fans that have a certain relationship with the brand (e.g. lifetime customer vs. prospect), or users in certain psychographic groups. For example, brands would like the ability to message moms that are customers in a certain way and kids that are customers in another tone via organic page posts. The ability to target status updates would be a huge holiday gift to brand marketers.
2. Understand the quality of fans from paid Facebook advertising campaigns.
Similarly, many marketers understand intuitively that their paid efforts to expand their fan communities help foster brand affinity and downstream actions, but they want the ability to measure the impact of paid ads on engagement. For instance, if a brand invests millions of dollars to advertise for new fans, they want to understand the impact that the newly acquired fans have on page interaction, attrition rates, application engagement and purchase behavior. Ultimately, brands want to determine what the marginal difference is in interaction for the new fans vs the brands current fans and to be able to measure the quality of fans from one advertising campaign to the next.
3. Frequency capping.
Another source of confusion for brand marketers is the fact that the Facebook advertising platform inherently behaves differently from the display advertising platforms that marketers have grown accustomed to. Historically, marketers have been able to set an exact ad frequency, and currently no such mechanism exists on Facebook.
Facebook's ad serving algorithm addresses frequency in its own way. The algorithm determines which ads to prioritize based on click-through rates. During the first few hours that an ad is live, the algorithm measures the and prioritizes the ad based on a combination of click-through rates and bids. If a brand marketer wants to control the advertising frequency more closely, it must look at other ways to curb audience fatigue. The ability to control frequency at the user level, not just the ad level, would certainly be a welcome gift to marketers for the holidays.
4. Third-party tracking within social ads.
Agency and brand marketers are also accustomed to including their own tracking urls within display advertising. While this is possible within certain Facebook marketplace ads, whenever a brand wants to use an ad with 'social context' (e.g. embedded like/share/read/listen button or sponsored story ad), they forego the ability to include third party tracking.
Obviously there are great benefits to running the ads with social context. They tend to be a highly efficient way of garnering 'likes' or desired actions since the user can engage directly within the ad unit. These ad units are also more relevant to users since they incorporate behaviors of users' friends and provide a positive word of mouth experience.
On the flip side, the inability to include third party tracking makes it more difficult for brands to track downstream actions of these users. Perhaps Facebook will consider allowing a hybrid that serves the dual purpose of keeping users within the Facebook platform, but allowing brands to track their other activities on the brand page.
5. Competitive separation.
Rounding out the Facebook holiday wish list is the elusive idea of competitive separation. Like frequency capping, competitive separation is a capability that has been available to marketers through display publishers. For instance, a brand marketer of a Fortune 100 financial services company can request a publisher to exclude instances of competitive ads on the same page as their ads on a website.
Unfortunately, in the Facebook marketplace this is not something that marketers can currently control. Facebook marketplace ads follow usersthroughout the platform; they are not appended to specific content or pages. Perhaps in the New Year, Facebook will allow the ability to let marketers control serving so that competitive ads will not appear together on the same page in Facebook.
Will the brand marketers' holiday wishes come true?
Facebook is the world's most pervasive social network and has a constantly improving advertising platform. Although the metrics and analytics are not totally comprehensive, and not an exact replica of display advertising, the power of social ads, the incredible targeting and the reach of the platform means that marketing on Facebook should be a crucial part of every brand manager's marketing mix. As Facebook continues to innovate, marketers will certainly get some of the capabilities they long for and will continue to get new functionality that ties into thesocial graph and enables the most powerful advertising online.