How Facebook Advertising Is Like TV

Social Network Guarantees Marketers Ability to Maximize Their Brands

By Published on .

Dave Williams
Dave Williams

It seems like there's a new Facebook-related headline every week, as the industry debates the social network's worth, its necessity, and its value as an advertising venue. Late last year it was revealed that one out of every four online display ads in the U.S. was shown on Facebook. That news came on top of data showing that 50% of all Facebook users log in daily. The industry is still struggling to understand exactly what Facebook is, but few have noted the channel it most closely resembles: television.

Yes, TV, the last bastion of traditional advertising and the most famous consumer time-waster.

Brands make TV advertising buys based on GRPs and TRPs in the hopes that they're buying the right audience, and delivering enough frequency to that audience. With TV buys, you choose specific programming in order to reach the audiences that like that kind of entertainment, be it sports, reality, sitcom, drama, soap opera or game show.

With TV, though, it is difficult to measure the size and makeup of the audience that has seen the ad. TV offers no measurable performance metric, outside of traditional branding measures.

Facebook, on the other hand, can guarantee audience reach and frequency of ad delivery. Making use of the vast amount of data that each user supplies to Facebook -- on average, more than 220 data points per member -- advertisers can easily reach and target specific audiences. The network recently implemented a frequency cap for ads appearing on the homepage. In the past, Facebook imposed a cap of five impressions per user per ad. Now the home-page limit is three, with another two impressions available via the marketplace -- the system that supplies the ads you see elsewhere on Facebook -- because non-home-page ads demonstrated the ability to deliver greater value for brand advertisers. The same research supported the value of marketplace ads for some of the largest brand advertisers on Facebook. Facebook's marketplace also offers much more inventory, further amplifying campaign value.

When you advertise on Facebook, you're targeting real people, not anonymous cookies. As opposed to the guesswork and assumptions associated with tracking cookies, Facebook advertisers have access to actual interests. That's just like the TV model, but Facebook offers many more granular targeting capabilities. Ford advertises during football games because reams of market research show that men who like big trucks watch football. Online, Ford might try the same approach on or the Yahoo sports page, but some of the consumers coming to those sites are Volvo-driving tennis fans.

Facebook gives you the ability to reach self-identified football fans across highly targeted age ranges, genders and geolocations. You can even reach football fans' friends. But you can also go straight to a group of consumers that you know likes trucks. They may even specifically like Ford trucks, or competitive brands, which you would know because they're fans of the Ford page, or because they have liked a competitor's brand. The ability to reach and target audiences this way resembles TV more than any other medium. And with Facebook, you know whether you've hit your desired audience.

Like TV advertising, Facebook advertising tends to carry a call to action that drives top-level engagement, but Facebook's call to action is even easier and more powerful, as it enables the user simply to "like" the brand within the ad. Moreover, Facebook ads display friends who also like the brand, a display that has been shown to increase brand metrics, click-through rates and conversions. Facebook ads usually take consumers either to internal Facebook-hosted pages or to outside product pages (like a regular display ad). That special engagement comes via the internal pages within the Facebook ecosystem, where users receive product information, the ability to "like" a product, and an invitation to alert the rest of their network via their newsfeed about an event they're attending. In a parallel that seems borne of this similarity, an increasing number of TV ads are sending viewers to a branded Facebook page. But that's a tangent for another day.

Facebook changed its home-page frequency cap rules after learning that a limit of three does a better job of driving brand retention. Like TV before it, Facebook has quickly become a great branding venue. Facebook flies in the face of the still-common notion that brands aren't built online, because Facebook enables brands to connect with their most passionate consumers, creating brand advocates that go beyond those of any other traditional advertising channel. TV gave us celebrity endorsers, like Joe DiMaggio for Mr. Coffee. Facebook introduces us to ordinary-human endorsements, people we know who are willing to say "Hey, I like this brand, and I'm going to say so on my profile."

We're seeing brands slowly moving print budgets toward Facebook advertising, because of the latter's ability to hyper-target users at the right reach and frequency, but Facebook's real impact is in its ability to complement television budgets. If you're an advertiser who wants to reach a specific audience with frequency in a short period of time, it's wise to coordinate your TV and Facebook buying efforts. That's the best way to maximize brand engagement and consumer advocacy.

Dave Williams is the founder and CEO of Blinq Media.
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