Putting a face to the crowd

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Growing number of agencies starting to specialize in buying ads on Facebook Facebook offers b-to-b media companies an unprecedented (and ever-growing) pool of potential buyers and prospects. Advertising on the social network (pegged at 500 million strong) is predicted to grow to $4 billion this year, or twice that of 2010, according to eMarketer. Nevertheless, marketers face significant challenges in navigating the social-networking site. Interest in targeted Facebook ads begin to “burn out” after three to five days, according a white paper released in January by Webtrends Inc. The report analyzed more than 11,000 ads on Facebook and 1,500 ad campaigns. The “rotting” click-through rate resulted in Facebook deactivating the ads, the study said. However, marketers were able to combat ad burnout by using “friend of fan” targeting. As new fans are added, the circle for ad exposure expands. Eventually, these ads burn out too, but they can last two to three times as long, the study said. “A lot of what's going on in the space, in terms of fan acquisition, is getting commoditized, rather than companies being able to differentiate between fans and understanding unique value,” said Addie Conner, director of advertising at SocialCode, a full-service Facebook marketing and advertising agency based in Washington, D.C. The agency, which is owned by Washington Post Co., started working on ad campaigns for Facebook last summer and was officially launched in January. So far, demand has exceeded expectations, Conner said. “It seems like 2010 and 2011 are the first years where brands are really budgeting for social media, and they are beginning to understand it.” SocialCode offers page management, app development, social commerce, fan monetization, message testing and advertising via Facebook's Ads API (application program interface). “By leveraging all the Facebook targeting parameters, we're able to give brands feedback on what messages are resonating with whom, at what relative rates and also the demographics of the people, such as age and region,” Conner said. She said the agency also helps marketers distinguish acquiring “fans” on Facebook from people who simply “like” a brand as well as acquiring legitimate customers. “We've been able show [marketers] just an amazing amount of data in terms of who's responding to what and what variables are important, and really build out these audience profiles—so that they understand who these people are and what they like,” she said. “So even if you can't extract an ROI value, just the research—data and reporting—is valuable in and of itself.” SocialCode is one of an increasing number of agencies that are helping marketers place ads on Facebook. “This area has grown so fast and is changing [so much] every day that agencies must evolve and offer this service,” said Rob Griffin, senior VP-global director of product development at virtual agency Havas Digital, a unit of French agency group Havas. “Conversely, publishers to be effective need to think like advertisers and use some of their tools.” Havas Digital recently starting working with Blinq Media, which specializes in buying ads on Facebook, to develop targeting strategies such as by interests, location or “likes.” SocialCode can create highly customized ad campaigns to reach small-business owners or C-level influencers, for example. “The targeting on Facebook is really a niche compared to any other platform, where you can do workplace targeting, specific titles and overlay various interests of things that types of people want to do,” SocialCode's Conner said. She also stressed that being able to maintain a dialogue is key to effective Facebook advertising. “Brands need to engage users in ways that are relevant and valuable to the community, creating a positive user experience for fans,” Conner said. “There's a nice reciprocal relationship that can happen through deep conversation, learning and engagement that is unique to the Facebook platform.”
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